Kirby’s Avalanche Review

Kirby's Avalanche

Though the Puyo Puyo series has become one of the more popular puzzle games out there, in the mid-1990s the series was still getting off the ground. In order to get the series some attention in its western release, the game was given various makeovers that implemented established video game characters into the puzzle game. While the Genesis version became Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and used aesthetics from the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon series, the Super Nintendo version became Kirby’s Avalanche.

As you may have guessed, Kirby’s Avalanche gave Puyo Puyo a heavy dose of Kirby. In single player, you take control of Kirby, who challenges various enemies from his series as he makes his way to King Dedede and claim the title of Avalanche champion.

Of course, the aesthetics are as far as the Kirby element goes for the game. This is still very much Puyo Puyo title. But the Kirby characters give the title a great sense of charm, and the game includes some excellent remixes of classic Kirby music.

If you’re familiar with Puyo Puyo, you know how the game plays. Groups of two colored blobs fall onto your board, Tetris-style, and you have to match up four blobs of the same color in order for them to disappear. If the blobs stack to the top, you lose.

Kirby's AvalancheThe blobs come in five colors: red, blue, yellow, green and purple. The blobs can be connected vertically or horizontally, which not only gives you a greater opportunity to clump four of them together, but if you can strategize quickly enough and react fast enough, you can link one elimination to another, which will send marble-like blobs onto your opponent’s board. Naturally, your opponent can do the same to you, and the only way to eliminate the marbles is to complete a set of four blobs adjacent to the marbles.

That’s really all there is to the gameplay. But as simple as it is, it’s equally fun and addicting. It really will have you strategizing every little move in hopes you can outlast your opponent. It can become a genuinely hectic, head-scratching challenge.

As fun as the gameplay is however, it should be noted that the game becomes devastatingly difficult pretty quickly. The first few stages won’t be a problem, but later levels increase the speed in which the blobs fall drastically, giving you very little time to plan ahead. The later stages will leave you absolutely no room for error, which becomes very difficult with how your every decision becomes an on-the-fly one.

Kirby’s Avalanche also features a multiplayer mode where two players can go head-to-head. Sadly, the game lacks any additional modes of play. So unless you haven’t played a number of the other Puyo Puyo games before, there’s not a whole lot here that you can’t find elsewhere.

Really, the only real problems with Kirby’s Avalanche are the insane difficulty and the lack of freshness for those with previous Puyo Puyo experience. Still, it’s hard not to get sucked into the gameplay, and the addition of Kirby characters and music just adds that much more charm to it.

 

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Kirby and the Amazing Mirror Review

Kirby and the Amazing Mirror

There are two kinds of Kirby games: Those that follow the traditional platforming of the series, with Kirby able to copy the abilities of his enemies, and those that rip Kirby out of the platforming genre and do something more out of the box. 2004’s Kirby and the Amazing Mirror lies somewhere in between the two halves of the series.

Amazing Mirror has the same basic gameplay of the traditional Kirby games, with the spherical pink hero being able to steal the powers of the bad guys he eats. He can jump, slide and fly, as is the norm for Kirby. But unusual for the series is that Amazing Mirror falls into the Metroidvania genre, with the level-based progression of most Kirby titles being tossed aside in favor of one big, explorative world.

The game world is divided into nine themed “areas,” each one containing a major boss as well as mid-bosses, in addition to the usual sub-bosses from the Kirby series. Though you don’t have to complete one-hundred percent of the map to complete the game, you will have to defeat every area’s main boss in order to finish the game, as each of them holds a fragment of the titular Amazing Mirror, which works as a portal to another world where a kidnapped Meta-Knight has been taken.

The Metroidvania setup is a unique take for the series, and was previously only touched on in the “Great Cave Offensive” sub-game of Kirby Superstar. It’s a refreshing change, but on the downside, the layout of the game could have used a little more polish, since the world of Amazing Mirror can be a bit on the confusing side.

You’ll find yourself backtracking very frequently, as certain powers are needed to reach some areas. Unfortunately, this can prove to be more tedious than you might think, because the game world is so large and it’s often confusing where certain areas connect with others.

Each area contains a map that can be found in a large treasure chest, but the maps aren’t nearly as helpful as they are in other games of the genre. Whereas Metroid and Castlevania’s maps give a clear indication of where one area connects with another, Amazing Mirror instead displays different sections as squares with lines in between them. Though it shows how many sections connect with each other, it’s a little too vague to provide any more help than a basic idea of where to go next.

The game does provide a hub room which you can go back to at any time, but it doesn’t connect with each of the nine areas. Instead, you have to search through the areas themselves to find doors to some of the other areas, so if you need to backtrack for any reason it can become an arduous process.

A key feature to the game’s original Game Boy Advance version that’s no longer present in the Wii U Virtual Console version is the multiplayer. In Amazing Mirror, Kirby has been split into four different colored versions of himself (the original pink, as well as red, yellow and green). The game was originally built with multiplayer in mind, with all four players being able to venture together or go their separate ways throughout the game’s world. Some of the game’s hidden treasures (which include Music CDs and other collectibles) even require the aide of multiple Kirbys to reach them. Kirby still has his cell phone that allows him to call the other Kirbys for help, but their AI is so unreliable it turns claiming even the simplest treasure chest into a chore.

Amazing Mirror also houses a trio of mini-games to play, but again this is a feature intended for multiplayer. You may have some quick bursts of fun with them, but unless you’re playing the GBA original with friends, the mini-games don’t have much staying power.

Kirby and the Amazing MirrorThe core gameplay remains fun, as is always the case with Kirby. Some new powers introduced here include Cupid, which allows Kirby to fly more freely and shoot arrows, Missile, which naturally transforms Kirby into a wildly-controlled missile, and Smash, a cool power that gives Kirby his moveset from the Super Smash Bros. series. These powers are nice, but don’t add a whole lot to the experience. It’s a shame that they’ve rarely shown up in the series since, however, as they could have been expanded on. One missed opportunity of a power comes in the form of Magic which, despite the promising name, ends up being little more than a random roulette wheel with varying effects (like giving Kirby a different power, of all things).

Another normality for the series are the quality visuals and sound. The game still looks impressive today, the character designs are simple and cute, and the game loses none of its visual charm when brought up to scale on a TV screen. The soundtrack is similarly lively, with a number of catchy tracks and memorable tunes.

Kirby and the Amazing Mirror remains a fun game in essence, and I long for the day that Nintendo decides to revisit the concept of a Metroidvania Kirby. But the map and layout of the game hinder the otherwise interesting change of pace for the series. And the game’s emphasis on multiplayer features means the original GBA release is still the preferred version. Not to mention this is the only Kirby game in history to not feature King Dedede in any capacity. Now that’s just shameful.

 

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Kirby and the Rainbow Curse Review

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is the spiritual sequel to Kirby: Canvas Curse, released on the Nintendo DS back in 2005. Canvas Curse was arguably the DS’ first definitive game, as it used the stylus and touchscreen so effectively and uniquely that it remained one of the DS’ best games throughout the handheld’s entire run. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse replicates a number of Canvas Curse’s elements, this time on the Wii U. Though this time around, Kirby’s bag of tricks isn’t quite as consistent.

Much like the DS original, Rainbow Curse sees Kirby transformed into a ball, and the player uses the Gamepad’s touchscreen to draw rainbow ropes in order to move Kirby around, with quick taps on Kirby himself giving him a little boost. You only have a limited supply of ink to create these rainbow ropes at a time, but it quickly replenishes.

Kirby and the Rainbow CurseBeing only the second game in the series to use this style of gameplay (and being ten years after the first), it all still feels fresh and unique. Unfortunately, Rainbow Curse doesn’t quite do as much with its gameplay as its predecessor did. Kirby’s trademarks copy ability was left intact in Canvas Curse, which gave the gameplay some added variety. Strangely, Kirby cannot copy enemy powers in Rainbow Curse, but some transformations do occur on a handful of stages.

At certain points in the game Kirby can transform into a tank, a submarine and a rocket, with each one being far more destructive than Kirby is in his natural state. The levels involving the transformations provide a nice change of pace from the standard levels, but they are ultimately too few in number. The transformation levels also rely too much on repeating gimmicks, leaving players to wish that there were more to them.

The gameplay remains solid, but it lacks the finer details of its DS predecessor. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is brought to life, however, for its unique visual style and its exceptional soundtrack.

Rainbow Curse mimics the look of claymation, with the characters and locations all giving the impression that Aardman had a go at a Nintendo title. The game looks absolutely beautiful, and it’s swimming in details (when Kirby is closer to the screen you can make out tiny fingerprints on his character model). The clay visual style is so wonderfully realized that you can’t imagine it would look much better if it were actually made with claymation.

There is one downside to this. With the game’s focus on the Gamepad, the player’s eyes will be more drawn to the touchscreen than what’s presented on the TV. Given that the Gamepad’s screen presents everything in standard definition, as opposed to the high definition of the Wii U itself, you may actually need to watch someone else play to fully soak in the game’s visual beauty.

In terms of music, Rainbow Curse boasts one of the best soundtracks in the series’ history, and Kirby has always been a series of consistently catchy music. The soundtrack pays homage to the 16-bit era of video games, with the musical styles sounding like SNES and Genesis tunes brought up to date. The game also includes a sound test, where players can listen to any music they’ve unlocked. It should be noted that the game’s soundtrack is so hefty that there are a number of remixes from past Kirby titles that only appear in the sound test (giving players all the more reason to find the hidden tracks).Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

There are a few bonus features in Rainbow Curse, most of which are unlocked by playing through the game’s story mode. The aforementioned music tracks, as well as character models and biographies, are found in hidden chests strewn about each level. Challenges are unlocked by completing certain stages, and there’s a charming (if not entirely useful) storybook that can be found – piece by piece – in a roulette wheel at the end of every stage. Aside from the music, the additional content doesn’t pack a whole lot of punch, but it should catch the eyes of completionists.

One thing to note is that Rainbow Curse is one of the more difficult Kirby games in recent memory. It’s never Tropical Freeze difficult, but you will find a number of instances where Kirby comes face-to-face with one-hit kill obstacles, and moments where the player must react quickly with the stylus to prevent Kirby from falling into a bottomless pit. Again, it’s nothing intensely difficult, but it is more challenging than its adorable exterior might suggest.

One aspect that could have used a little more variety are the boss battles. Between the game’s seven worlds, there are only four bosses among them. The first three bosses are each recycled for another round, with little to differentiate the fights other than a color swap.Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

Multiplayer is an option, with additional players taking on the roles of multicolored Waddle Dees who use more traditional platforming controls to aid Kirby. It’s not the Wii U’s best local co-op, but it is nice to have as an option should others want to join in the fun.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse may not rank among the best Kirby games, as it falls short of its predecessor and some gameplay aspects are underdeveloped, but it is nonetheless a fun and different take on the world of Dreamland that, above all else, is an audiovisual delight.

 

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