Fans of the pink glutton known as Kirby must be on cloud nine. It wasn’t all that long ago that Nintendo took the series in a whole new direction with the fantastic Kirby’s Epic Yarn (read our review here). And in the wake of E3 2011, not one but two new Kirby games will be launching before the end of the year: Kirby Return’s To Dream Land for the Wii and Kirby: Mass Attack for the (still going strong) Nintendo DS. The latter of which involves the unique premise of splitting Kirby into ten smaller pink puffs to take on truly monstrous challenges.
The gameplay in Kirby: Mass Attack is, at the same time, similar and radically different from anything the series has done before. On the surface the game resembles a traditional 2D Kirby sidescroller, much like the Super Nintendo and Nintendo DS games that came before it, and yes the object of the game is to move from left to right, collecting items, solving simple puzzles and defeating enemies. The difference here is that Kirby now has the ability to split himself into 10 identical parts, allowing him to gang up on larger enemies, power through obstacles and compete in tug-of-war contests against behemoths.
The game controls like a cross between Kirby Super Star and Canvas Curse. You must guide your mass of pink balls to the exit. This is done by controlling a star that the Kirbys must follow. That’s right; Kirby: Mass Attack is entirely touch controlled. Now this may seem like a step backwards for the Kirby purist, and I’ll admit I too was a tad put off at first, but after stampeding my Kirbys through the first level I was hooked. My only real issue with the controls is that the game often has a tough time telling the difference between a ‘tap’ and a ‘hold’; thankfully you can easily hop out of any move by tapping the screen.
While the game certainly looks like a traditional Kirby game it does seem to take a huge step back when compared to the more recent Epic Yarn. Now while it may be unfair to directly compare this title with Kirby’s last epic, it is curious that Nintendo immediately reverted to the old visual style after the great reception the patchwork and string look received. The music, however, hits all the right notes (I promised myself I would never make that pun) with a soundtrack that brings back memories of Kirby’s earliest adventures. The title screen tune is particularly catchy and will stay stuck in your head long after you shut your DS off.
Kirby: Mass Attack looks to continue the series’ tradition of releasing radically different, yet similar adventures. The ability to split Kirby into ten different copies may not seem as innovative as giving him a plethora of different abilities or the power to change the shape of his string-body, but from my brief time with the demo I can tell that Nintendo has some unique challenges and puzzles hidden deeper on that little DS cartridge.
While you wait for our review, be sure to check out the demo for Kirby: Mass Attack, available for a limited time from the Nintendo DS Download Service on the Wii’s Nintendo Channel. The full retail release will be on September 19th in North America.