Occasionally Nintendo reveals a game out of the blue with a nearby release date, reminding us of the company's ability to deliver delightful spontaneity. Kirby: Planet Robobot is one such release, announced in the early March Nintendo Direct and all set for an early June release in the West. Having sampled what it's offering over a number of hours we're pleased to report that this is anything but a rushed and sloppy sequel - it's simply more lovely Kirby gameplay with a fun twist.

HAL Laboratory has a previous release with this IP on 3DS with Kirby: Triple Deluxe, which was charming and hit many marks. It was arguably lacking a little spark, despite its overt cuteness, playing rather safe and struggling to go from being 'good' to 'great'. It did little wrong, and offered fun extras and smiles all around, but it didn't deliver a knockout blow - the game's Hypernova gimmick looked great at first but quickly lost it lustre.

Planet Robobot could tip to the next level, however, giving Kirby a sequel that improves upon what came before. The core gameplay remains, naturally - Kirby walks, runs, jumps, floats and sucks in enemies (abilities) and items. Yet there are flashes of creativity courtesy of the storyline, and Kirby's transformations also spring to life in some pleasurable moments.


The key hook, as the name suggests, is that robotic foes have arrived and taken over the world. With that come the new contextualised sections in which you jump into a mech shell and transform into a hulking representation of the pink one. It's a delight the first time it happens and hasn't lost its allure for us as yet, especially as the mechs absorb enemies and utilise an alternative twist on their abilities. The fun of past generations in discovering Kirby's transformations has been multiplied here.

Mech Kirby is, of course, powerful and rather destructive, which can dramatically change your approach to a level. It's more dynamic than the aforementioned 'Hypernova' of Triple Deluxe, and as a simple idea (put Kirby in a cool robot) it delivers exactly what one would expect; it's a hoot.

Even better are sections where the mech transforms into other vehicles that take you into entirely different stage types. Suffice to say there are levels where you fly and 'drive', and you can envisage the genres and game styles that are riffed upon. Stumbling across these areas is always a pleasure, especially as they often emerge with little deliberate build-up - quite unexpectedly the game shakes things up, and has prompted plenty of smiles from your humble writer.


Romping around in a mech is great fun, but it also seems HAL has been able to focus its attentions on level design, no doubt helped by having the game engine established with its last entry. Environments are varied and, as always, there are hidden objects - stickers are optional, but each stage also has three futuristic cubes to find, some of which are needed to unlock the boss stages at the end of each world. Beyond simply finding items there are some nice puzzles, too. Though they don't exactly have you scratching your head, there are some neat ideas that riff on technology and electricity. For example you may need the Spark ability to start a fuse, and then manipulate wires to power a battery which then reveals a secret. Making you pause to think over environmental puzzles is an effective way to add an alternative rhythm to play.

The main game, of which we've played through most of the worlds so far, is shaping up nicely. Yet there are also extras that provide brief but fun diversions. Kirby 3D Rumble contains a number of stages with an isometric view - your task is to dispose of enemies as efficiently and quickly as possible, with some tricky encounters and stage layouts thrown in. It's over quickly, but it's fun and will have some chasing the top rankings to improve their scores.

Team Kirby Clash can be played with local multiplayer or CPU comrades - it supports download play which we'll test for the review. This is a short number of boss encounters, with each Kirby having an assigned power type and role. The bosses are a lot of fun and a little different from main-game equivalents, and working within the team is vital in terms of healing each other, using a shield ability for protection and sharing boosts. The AI assist characters are smart when going solo, and a neat twist is that you can access a 'Power Stone', triggering a brief event and unleashing huge damage on the enemy. Again, it's a short extra, but it's enjoyable and will have plenty chasing the top ranks.


As a whole this title also demonstrates that the 3DS is still capable of attractive visuals, with the franchises' style suiting the portable perfectly. That said, a small number of stages do get a little choppy with 3D enabled (even on a New 3DS) but run smoothly in 2D. It's not every stage that has this problem. Beyond that we also want to give a nod to the soundtrack, which is upbeat and, in a word, fantastic. In addition a neat feature we've barely used (as the game isn't particularly difficult) is the option to scan amiibo to access abilities in game, which should be a big help for younger players in particular.

So far, then, Kirby: Planet Robobot has kept us very entertained. It's easy-going but has clever moments, while dripping with charm and good humour in every stage. Unlike Triple Deluxe it also feels like the level designers let out their playful, creative sides a little more - beyond the usual collectathon and general lack of lost lives, there are some delightful moments that raise an impromptu smile. It's those unexpected flashes, when fun becomes delight, that make this a game to watch closely.