Thoughts on Kirby: Canvas Curse

By Filipe Salgado - August 6th, 2009

Thoughts on Kirby: Canvas Curse

While the Mario series is where Nintendo refines the platformer genre, the Kirby series is where ideas are tried, played around with, discarded, and picked up again. Kirby Superstar, a half-forgotten title from the SNES era that was thankfully re-released on the DS, best exemplifies this. It’s a collection of small little experiments in form. Different types of games, different objectives, the only constant being Kirby. As a whole, it’s a series that should come with footnotes*.

So it was my surprise when I picked up Kirby: Canvas Curse, and found a unique game. Its base is a standard platformer, but its control scheme is really unlike anything out there. The premise is that Kirby is turned into a ball, and he keeps rolling in whatever direction he’s facing. Using the stylus, and only the stylus mind you, you can tap Kirby to dash, or you can create lines on screen that guide him. These lines can be used to avoid enemies, block their attacks, and be used as ramps. Basically, they eliminate the use of buttons altogether.

Sorry to draw on the comparisons again, but the Mario series is very deliberate. Everything in the game is where it is for a reason. Miyamoto and his teams build games and then endlessly tweak them until they’re just right. Canvas Curse is messy. Crisscrosses of rainbow lines fill the screen. You won’t be making the precision run jumps that platformers usually ask for. Instead, you will frantically scribble on the screen making your own platforms. On the better levels, this culminates in a frantic, fast-paced mess that’s as fun as the best entries in the platformer canon.

On the worst levels, it’s an entirely different game. Some levels ask for precision using this imprecise control scheme, and it can get maddening, especially given the finite line length. Water levels are the worst: The control scheme is mostly useless and Kirby slows to a crawl. There are enough of these levels, especially late in the game, to annoy.

Aside from the main game there are a few separate modes. There’s the option to replay levels under a certain time limit, or by using the least amount of “ink” possible. The latter mode seems a bit odd to me. It’s like playing Mario with a restriction on jumps, but it’s a challenge for those who want it. The mini games that double as boss battles are the weakest part of the game. Each is derivative and tedious, taking away from the originality of the title. It’s worsened by the fact that each game has to be played twice.

Doing well in these other modes gains medals, which are used for unlock bonus content. There’s no way of knowing what you’re getting when you trade in your medals, which is probably done on purpose, as most are superficial.

Kirby: Canvas Curse, at its peak, is a rebel yell against the pitch perfection of the Mario series (I swear, that’s the last time I’ll mention Mario!). You get to play amateur level designer and build the game around Kirby. By comparison, the rest of the game seems pale and unoriginal. Having completed it, I wonder why its innovations haven’t been borrowed by other series. Can you imagine a Sonic game with this control scheme? Or even a Canvas Curse sequel? Kirby: Canvas Curse has created a new way to play platformers, which has sadly been ignored.

*The series has borrowed from Super Mario Bros. (coin collection), Little Nemo: The Dream Master (riding animals), Pitfall (treasure collection), Adventure Island (fruit collection), Sonic the Hedgehog (level structure), Gunstar Heroes (weapon combining) and a few others at one point or another in its life.
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    3 responses so far:
  2. Posted on Aug 6, 2009

    See I knew I would have beef with this article because the only thing that should be in your head when playing KCC is unadulterated joy.

    seriously though if I’m gonna “keep it real” then I do agree that the boss battles/mini-games were weak but I didn’t have ANY problem with the main story mode. It’s been a long time for me but I did 100% the game. I’m pretty sure I even got all the medals eventually. I even started up a 2nd save so I could unlock it all for the first time again. (never finished 2nd save)

    I won’t insult your intelligence as a gamer by suggesting that maybe you didn’t figure out all of Kirby’s paint moves but I really don’t remember any frustrations in the main game. Except maybe playing with some of the other characters was difficult in some areas.

    You are right on point with KCC as in some wasy groundbreaking. Sonic Rush was a good game. a great game but it would be interesting to see it borrow control ideas from KCC.

    I’m the guy in your local forum who is always bringing up Player’s Choice and whining about how Nintendo needs to bring it back. KCC is one of the games I would love to see revived.

  3. Posted on Aug 12, 2009

    I think the levels that really didn’t work for me (aside from the water stages) were the second last set of levels. There was a difficulty spike there, whereas before I had eased on by.

    I haven’t played Sonic Rush, but I’ll check it out. And I definitely agree with Player’s Choice. I still fondly remember it.

  4. By Tony
    Posted on Aug 19, 2009

    I really enjoyed this game. I feel like it’s one of a handful of games that REALLY benefit from the touch screen… in that they really wouldn’t be possible elsewhere without significant and less fun changes. Kind of like Wii Sports on the Wii.

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