Kirby Mass Attack Review
Developer: HAL Labs / Publisher: Nintendo / Played on: Nintendo DS / Price: $34.99 / ESRB: Everyone [Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence]
When thinking of the Kirby series of games my mind eventually focuses on the main fundamental of the franchise: gobbling up baddies and copying their powers. I’d say it’s fair to say that’s been the core of the franchise outside of Epic Yarn, which is why I was surprised to find none of that in the newest Kirby title, Kirby Mass Attack for the Nintendo DS. I was about to get my Kirby fanboy rage on, but when I played the game all that rage went away, and all that was left was the fuzzy feeling of satisfaction that only the pink puffball can give me. Kirby Mass Attack is coming out on the tail end of the DS’s lifecycle, and though it doesn’t follow the same formula as other Kirby games, it’s an excellent swan song showcasing everything the DS has to offer.
The jovial hero Kirby is taking a nap on a seemingly serene day when the dark wizard Necrodeus shows up to thwart his peaceful vacation. In classic villain form Necrodeus opts not to annihilate Kirby while he is sleeping, but instead to split the little guy into 10 smaller, weaker Kirbies. With Kirby apparently out of the picture Necrodeus and his minions known as the Skull Gang proceed to wrap all the land in an eternity of darkness. Gasp! The lighthearted atmosphere presented by the story is just what you’d expect from a Kirby game: namely it’s somewhat childish and melodramatic. Combined with the whimsical art style and Kirby’s spirited demeanor the story is very fitting.
Though the power copying feature has been taken away, the remainder of the game follows closely to other Kirby platforming games. Instead of guiding just one pink crusader you guide 10 across 44 levels. You start out controlling only one Kirby and add more Kirbies by collecting fruits. Every 100 points of fruit unlocks another Kirby to use, with 10 Kirbies in total (collecting 100 fruit points after obtaining all 10 Kirbies grants a 10,000 point bonus to your overall score). You attack enemies by tapping on them with the stylus, which sends Kirby onto the foe to pummel them into submission. Each Kirby has just one point of health, and when hit turns blue to indicate it’s been damaged. Getting hit again turns that Kirby into a gray angel that floats up and off the screen unless grabbed by a healthy Kirby. Hidden in each stage are a handful of medals to collect which unlock special mini-games and hints to use when not playing the main game. Having a full army of Kirbies not only aids in battle but in exploration: certain stages require a set number of Kirbies before you can enter the level, and some puzzles demand 10 Kirbies to complete. A ranking is presented at the end of each level. Combined with in-game achievements and obtaining every medal, Kirby Mass Attack has a great deal of replay value. My only complaint with the gameplay is that it’s too easy: puzzles are simple and bosses, including the end boss, are easy to defeat.
A handful of mini-games can be unlocked after collecting set numbers of medals. While these games have nothing to do with the main storyline, they are actually fun and worth playing. In these games Kirby ventures into new game genres, such as the side scrolling shooter, the RPG, and even a return to the pinball genre with a nod to the Game Boy classic Kirby’s Pinball Land. These mini-games are not just thrown together extras but full-fledged games that are just as fun as the main game. Kirby Mass Attack has a lot to offer, but it’s all over far too quickly. A playthrough of the main game will only last a few hours; tack on a few more to get each medal. Even with the added mini-games I still feel the game’s too short.
It’s easy to pass off the Kirby series as kid’s games because of the lush colors and cutesy characters, but doing so would deny you a fantastic visual feast. Kirby Mass Attack is no exception and features some of the most vibrant graphics the Nintendo DS has to offer. Backgrounds, enemies, and all ten Kirbies animate beautifully on the handheld. The adorable nature of the characters and environments accompanies the tone of the game well. Kirby Mass Attack looks and feels like other Kirby games, and that’s not a bad thing.
Kirby Mass Attack is one of the few games I’ve played on the DS that is entirely controlled by the stylus. You control your mob of Kirbies by touching the DS’s touch screen, which makes a shining star appear on-screen that the Kirbies follow like it’s some deity. Swiping the stylus across the screen will fling Kirbies in that direction, something that you’ll be doing a lot to attack enemies and grab onto levers or switches. Double tapping the screen will cause the Kirby team to sprint, and placing the star on the Kirbies lets you draw out a path for them to move, very similar to Kirby’s other DS venture Kirby: Canvas Curse. The controls aren’t perfect though, as a few times a group of Kirbies got left behind because they couldn’t get out of the water or over a particular ledge to join their pink brethren. Getting all ten Kirbies together can also sometimes be a hassle. Even so, the stylus controls are incredible: a perfect highlight at the end of the DS’s life to showcase just what the system was capable of.
Kirby Mass Attack is a fun game that does a great job showing off the DS. Unique controls, a fun new concept for the series, and the same fun and imagination that made the Kirby series popular combine to make Kirby Mass Attack is fitting end to the popular handheld.
8.5 / 10