It's no secret that Kirby has been a huge part of Nintendo's portable systems over the years, even making his debut on the original Game Boy back in 1992. When Kirby Canvas Curse was released, it took the traditional button controls away and replaced them with the touchscreen controls of the DS. While some die-hard fans of the series didn't care for the change, it did present a rather unique gaming experience that showed just what the DS touchscreen controls were capable of. Now six years later, Kirby returns to the touchscreen and while the gameplay design is quite a bit different this time around, it actually makes for an even more engaging playing experience.
When you begin the game, you're given one Kirby to work with. While this works quite well with the early tutorial sections, you'll soon find out that if you're going to get anywhere in this game you're going to have to do it with more Kirby at your disposal. The majority of the game still feels very reminiscent of past releases, but having to control the game entirely with the touchscreen does take a little getting used to. As the majority of your adventure will be spent with as many as 10 of the little pink fluffs, it's clear that this is a very different playing experience than most Kirby fans are used to.
Moving around in Kirby Mass Attack is as simple as touching the stylus to the touchscreen. This will produce a gold star that your Kirby characters will follow. You can even double-tap on the screen to make them run, something you'll find quite useful in some of the trickier spots. If you need to give them specific movement directions, you simply tap on the group of Kirby characters and then draw a line to guide them on a direct path. There will also be times when you'll need to flick them at obstacles and enemies, which is executed with a mere flick of the stylus. You'll soon find that there are a huge number of control variations available to you as you experiment your way through the many levels.
Many of the obstacles and challenges you'll face throughout your adventure revolve around how many Kirby characters you have on hand. Sometimes only a few are necessary to traverse tricky sections and take out specific enemies, whereas other times you're going to need as many as 10 to complete certain tasks. Items like plants that need to be pulled up often require more Kirby power, something you'll have to keep in mind as you make your way through the levels. If you find yourself lacking in number, all you have to do is gobble up fruit that becomes available after completing tasks and taking out enemies. There will even be times when you'll need to go back and revisit certain levels once you've accumulated a larger group of characters.
The majority of the main adventure involves little more than making your way through the levels to an exit door at the end, all the while taking out the barrage of enemies and boss fights. Of course, if you want to experience everything the game has to offer, you'll need to locate and pick up the tiny gold medals that are carefully hidden around each level. With these medals you'll be able to unlock some amazing mini-games and other unique extras, like the music player, mini-RPG Kirby Quest and more. As if this weren't enough, there's also a list of 35 special tasks that function almost like achievements: trying to unlock and complete these tasks can be quite challenging, but prove to be extremely rewarding for those who take the time to perform them.
It's impossible not to be impressed with how HAL Laboratories have implemented the touchscreen controls throughout the game. It's difficult to imagine that there are so many control variations that can be executed with such a simple means of control. Given that you do have to control a group of up to 10 Kirby, it can be a little tricky at times getting them all where they need to be, but for the most part the control scheme is top notch and does a fantastic job of making the game very playable, while still keeping things simple enough for players of all skill levels to enjoy.
Kirby's first touchscreen outing took things visually in a radically-different direction, but thankfully things have returned to a more normal look in this release. Fans of the series will immediately feel right at home as many of the graphical influences from past releases make a return and look better than ever. Everything about the various world jump off the screen with their soft pastel colors and storybook feel, and even with all of the animation of the various enemies and multiple characters, the frame rate remains nice and smooth. Some gamers have begun to get a bit spoiled with the visual capabilities of the 3DS, but Mass Attack shows that the DS still packs some solid graphical punch when used effectively.
The soundtrack features a huge amount of variety too: there's still the heavy dose of charming tunes we've all come to expect from a Kirby release, but this time around there are influences that include everything from jazz to country music and pretty much everything in between. There's even a good mix between slower, more melodic tunes to some of the more furious up-tempo tracks played out during the game's boss fights. To round out the package there is also a full range of cute Kirby sound effects that add even more charm to the overall package.
There will inevitably be Kirby purists who will baulk at the rather unorthodox gameplay concept behind Kirby Mass Attack, but if they do they'll be missing out on one of Kirby's most unique adventures to date. While there are a few extremely minor control issues that pop up from time to time, the touchscreen-only controls perform well, making the game an absolute joy to play. In truth, Kirby Mass Attack might very well be the closest thing to a Canvas Curse sequel we'll ever likely see and proves to be yet another extremely charming and engaging Kirby adventure.