Game: Kirby Mass Attack
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Available on: Nintendo DS only
The last time we met caught up with him, our wee pink mucker Kirby was starring in a fabric based platformer that was stuffed so chock-full of innovation and wonderful, fuzzy charm that it instantly became one of the finest games of the year and for the Nintendo Wii, for that matter. You see, he may not have the same high profile as some of Nintendo’s other intellectual properties, but as far as we are concerned, Kirbs is our homie and you can usually rely on HAL Laboratory to produce the goods where their puffy little rose-hued mascot is concerned.
There have been two previous Kirby outings for the DS – the exceptional Canvas Curse, with its sweet touch screen gameplay – and the slightly more underwhelming Squeak Squad, which was a fun, if conventional platformer packed with some rather unnecessary minigames. The golden rule with Kirby seems to be that when you take him out of his standardised platforming comfort zone and add some interesting mechanics or a fancy new control scheme – then some magic happens. Can Mass Attack follow the excellence of Canvas Curse and Epic Yarn?
STORY: Cartoonified whimsy is once more the order of the day, plot wise with added gang-on-blob violence. Our hero is out exploring some fantastical archipelago, decides to have a kip and wakes up to find that he has been magically split into ten by a nasty gang leader. But this is no Bloods and Crips business – the gang in question is the mysterious Skull Gang, and their leader is dreaded wizardy type Necrodeus. Instead of popping a cap into his pink ass, Necrodeus has used a magic staff to carry out the multiple-personality split-job on Kirby, defeating all but one of the doppelgangers, before disappearing to commit more nefarious deeds. It is your job to re-unite the ten waylaid Kirby-copies and ultimately dish out some justice to Necrodeus.
GRAPHICS: This is a beautiful looking platform game, with exceptional presentation throughout. With a variety of different environments, an amazing bestiary of foes and hilariously animated Kirby sprites, this a treat for the eyes and as good looking a platformer as you will play for a console seemingly in the twilight of its existence.
SOUND: Mass Attack is as gifted in the sounds department as it is pretty. Like Epic Yarn there are some cheerful, earworm ditties that suit the action brilliantly. You gain access to an unlockable music player later in proceedings which allows you to spin through the tunes at your own leisure, should you desire.
GAMEPLAY: Controlled entirely with the stylus, you initially play as a single Kirby. Touching the screen will produce a star which he will walk towards. You collect fruit as you move around, which awards you points. Hit 100 points and another Kirby materialises, up to a maximum of ten. It is then your job to guide this flock of pink blobs around the levels, a bit like Lemmings, but with loads more possibilities. You can tap the screen rapidly to make them run. Hold the stylus down and move it around the screen and the gang will follow. You can flick the little blighters around to make them jump or smash perishable objects.
Perhaps best of all is the way you can touch the stylus onto an enemy, leading to your Kirby swarm attacking en -masse like so many marshmallow piranhas. Of course, whether the attack is successful depends on how many Kirbys you have at that given time – and they are not invulnerable. Each of your little guys can take two hits. One hit turns your Kirby from pink to blue – if a blue takes further damage then they will be eliminated and ascend towards what one presumes is Kirby Heaven – however you can restore your lost compatriots by flicking a still-pink member of your flock at the floating spirit-Kirby, pulling him back into the fray. There is also one checkpoint per stage which will replenish your Kirby-count.
Gameplay is not just about negotiating the landscape. Like the brilliant Epic Yarn, there is absolutely loads to do. One minute you will be using your cloud of Kirbys to pull up root vegetables, the next you may be swimming underwater en-masse, munching a lollipop and increasing massively in size, melting snowmen with flaming torches, or even taking control of a tank that rather brilliantly fires Kirbys as its ordnance. The levels are brilliantly designed and wonderfully imaginative.
LONGEVITY: The game is pretty easy to complete, but there is so much more to it than just blasting through the levels. Hidden around each stage are collectable medals and Rainbow Medals, which are essential to unlock a veritable smorgasbord of extra content. There are some excellent minigames to enjoy – a simple yet fun pinball table, an RPG-lite starring Kirby, the aforementioned music player and even a fun Twinbee-style vertical shooter. Each stage also awards a score at the end depending on performance and items collected, so maintaining your ten Kirbys, collecting all the items and getting the best available marks for each area is going to take up a good wedge of your time.
VERDICT: Mass Attack is a superb game. The touch screen interface is as good as any game on the DS to date and they help make an already gorgeous looking and brilliantly designed game even more of a treat. Nintendo have come up with the goods again – with a pocket sized adventure that more than deserves to join its Wii predecessor in the upper echelons of Kirby lore.