Tech News on G4
Attack of the Kirby clones
Nov 21, 2011
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
There are certain rules in Nintendo-dom that simply can't be broken. Mario jumps, Link swings the Master Sword, Samus shoots from her trusty arm cannon, and Little Mac trains in his pink jumpsuit.
Kirby is an exception though. For years, the little puff's main offensive strategy was to inhale (literally) anything and everything in his path and take on the shape and powers of whatever he just consumed.
Things have changed recently though. In 2005's "Kirby: Canvas Curse", the cute little sphere rolled his way through enemies, while in 2010's "Epic Yarn", he used a yarn whip from his own body to take care of foes.
This takes us to 2011's "Mass Attack", which sees Kirby split up into 10 versions of himself by the nefarious wizard Necrodeus. The rest of the game sees Kirby attempting to make himself normal again by chasing down and defeating Necrodeus.
"Mass Attack" instantly gets points for using completely stylus-based controls. Despite the handheld's touch screen, surprisingly few DS titles go the route of only touch-screen controls. When they're done well, though, it's a wonderful experience.
The player simply touches the screen where he wants his Kirby (or Kirbys) to move to. Point at fruit and he'll gobble it up; tap on an enemy and Kirby will pummel it with gusto.
This game wasn't designed for just one Kirby though. By eating that's sprinkled generously throughout every level, players can increase their Kirby count up to 10. Despite having control of so many characters at once, it all works well for the most part. The Kirbys will all stick side by side and move together to wherever you want them to go, although you can launch them away from each other individually by tapping on one and flinging him to wherever you want him to go.
This is all quite simple in early levels, though you're forced to pay close attention to where your Kirbys are and what they're doing as you move deeper into the game. You may be focused on a specific enemy on one side of the screen, and won't realize a Kirby has been downed until you hear the awful little scream.
The only noteworthy hiccup with the touch screen-only controls is that the camera always does its best to keep every Kirby on the screen at once. Often I would have nine Kirbys ready to advance at the far right of the screen, but the one Kirby stuck behind a wall on the left would impede what's about to appear on the other side of the screen.
A lot of the basic enemies can easily be taken down once you've accumulated a lot of Kirbys, but the interesting boss battles will require a little more strategy, and often a lot more precise aiming and throwing abilities. The game almost trains you to mindlessly fling Kirbys at enemies to quickly defeat them, then one giant boss pops up and proves that doing the same thing to it is an easy way to cause a lot of quick deaths.
Like the majority of Nintendo games over the last two decades, finishing most of the stages isn't difficult. The real challenge comes in finding all the hidden items strewn throughout every level.
This starts out as a fun side quest for completionists, but it becomes required - and annoying - in the later levels. In the fourth world, for instance, you can't advance to the final stages until you've found a switch that's been hidden somewhere in another level. There's absolutely no way of knowing where the switch is, so the player is forced to go through each level again - sometimes more than a second time! - to find it.
These coins serve a second purpose, which is to unlock various minigames. Ranging from pinball, to a top-down shooter, to a whack-a-mole type game, they're all surprisingly fun.
And while a lot of the early part of "Mass Attack" focuses on showing off great level design, interesting enemies and the occasional cool use both screens, the difficulty of later levels swings wildly. Gathering coins is the least of your worries here; instead, you'll facing multiple bosses in a row and will be doing your damndest just to get out of levels with one or two Kirbys.
Keep in mind as well that each level requires the player to have a certain number of Kirbys to enter. So if you squeak out of a level with two or three, chances are you'll have to go back to a much earlier stage just to gather more fruit and earn more Kirbys. It may add an element of challenge, but it really hurts the momentum the game works so hard at gathering.
Despite some shortcomings, "Mass Attack" does a lot of things right. Any fan of sidescrollers is bound to find a lot to like in Kirby's latest handheld appearance, though the casual crowd may get more than a little frustrated by the later levels.
Kirby Mass Attack
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