Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
Under the spell

By Seán O'Sullivan - March 26th, 2015


For ten years now I have been hearing DS fans drone on about how great Kirby: Canvas Curse was – a game designed to show off the capabilities of Nintendo’s first stylus interface. Navigating Kirby through a treacherous world by drawing paths for him to follow wasn’t a pitch that got me enthusiastic enough to try the game for myself, but now that Nintendo has revisited the concept for the Wii U’s Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, I just had to give it a look.

First and foremost: this is a stunning game. The conceit for the presentation is that everything is made of clay, and Nintendo has absolutely nailed the aesthetic, capturing the painstakingly hand-crafted look of a clay-mation cartoon. Round surfaces are imperfectly smooth, dimpled with fingerprints, and the frame-rate jitters in cut-scenes to emulate the stop-motion medium it takes inspiration from. Bright colours burst off of the screen, complimented by the chipper soundtrack, perfectly selling the kids’ cartoon vibe; but this lavish visual treatment must be reconciled with the fact that this is a murderously difficult game.

That’s a point that needs to be stated quite clearly: underneath the bubble-gum pink cutesy aesthetic is one of the most stressful games I have played in aeons. The premise is deceptively simple: draw a path for Kirby to roll along, tap on him to send him into a short-range dash attack, and press and hold to spend your collected tokens on a super-attack, but these straightforward inputs are used in myriad devious ways to eke as much game-play out of this title as possible.

The seaweed must be pretty dense to justify a chainsaw shark!

The opening few levels do a great job of introducing the player to the mechanics at their own pace. I enjoyed drinking in the lush graphics as I drew lazy loops around wide open spaces, collecting stars and sniffing out the hidden objectives. The only hints of the impending difficulty would come from the bonus stages, which task Kirby with collecting items with speed and precision as an impossibly-stingy clock counts down to failure. These exercises initially serve as a welcome jolt from the Sunday-drive atmosphere of the early levels, and they effectively serve as a warning shot that, in order to prevail, you’ll have to get better – fast.

The whimsical presentation holds firm as additional enemies are layered in, bottomless pits and spike traps appear with increasing regularity, and self-scrolling levels have the player complete the high-wire act under duress of being crushed or left behind (and starting from the last checkpoint). The beautiful graphics, infectious music, and upbeat style continue to charm as the pressure is ratcheted up, but the real genius is the novelty that’s introduced with each new stage. Each of the settings bring their own twist, such as the bouncy-cloud stage, or the underwater sequences that reverse the expected physics as players struggle to control a buoyant Kirby. Each of the worlds ends with a classic boss-stage, which involves old-school puzzle-solving and pattern recognition to complete, and a handful of levels transform Kirby into vehicles equipped with offensive capabilities, which kept me playing in anticipation of the next surprise.

In Kirby’s world, the vending machines eat you!

Up to three players to join in on the action at any point during the single player campaign, assuming control of Waddle Dee, who handles as a conventional platform hero. These extra heroes can jump on the lines drawn by the player (with the GamePad), attack enemies, and even carry Kirby around when things get tough. I only played with one partner at a time, but I was always grateful for the assistance.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a highly unusual game, which makes it hard to issue blanket recommendations. If you’re familiar with its DS forebear, you should have an idea of the core hook, but there’s precious little else to compare it to. If you want a game that puts the Wii U’s GamePad to good use, here’s a perfect example. If you’re a fan of Kirby, or a sucker for games with adorable presentation, it’s absolutely worth a look. If you want the bragging rights of being able to say that you made it through one of the most difficult first-party Nintendo games of recent memory, then Kirby belongs in your collection.

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