The Kirby series has always been a hotbed of innovation and experimentation for Nintendo. Games like Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Kirby: Canvas Curse have shown that Nintendo doesn’t shy away from trying out new aesthetic styles and entirely new control mechanics. Those two philosophies combine in the latest game, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. Offering up unique, claymation style visuals along with Gamepad-only controls, the game is certainly different enough to warrant gamer’s attention, but the gameplay suffers in a few areas that might disappoint those seeking a richer experience.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is somewhat of a spiritual successor to the aforementioned Kirby: Canvas Curse. This makes sense as the Wii U Gamepad is now able to recreate the controls found on its handheld predecessor. Utilizing this new peripheral, players are able to control Kirby as he rolls around the screen. Aside from tapping him to roll faster and attack there is actually little direct control of the titular ball of clay. Instead players draw colorful platforms and paths for Kirby to follow. As you draw you use up some of your meter, making it so you have to strategize and plan out your paths. Not doing so risks missing out on some collectibles or taking damage from enemies.
This indirect control mechanic has its advantages and disadvantages. When it works, it offers a great feeling of satisfaction, as your puzzle solving and planning skills come together perfectly to get through tough spots, or nab that hard to reach item. However, it doesn’t always work so well, as drawing with a stylus is inherently imprecise, and the game often requires the opposite. This becomes especially frustrating during more hectic areas, such as boss fights. This isn’t to say that Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a particularly difficult game, most of its toughest areas will only take a few tries at most to complete, but when you do fail it has that extra touch of annoyance if it is due to a tiny issue with the controls, rather than your own skill.
Nintendo has always done a great job of keeping their games suitable for all ages, but with Kirby and the Rainbow Curse it feels like something was lost.
Luckily these moments are fewer than the ones where the game works well, making for an overall enjoyable experience. Exploring the colorful world of Kirby is always fun, but doing so by drawing lines on the Gamepad and watching Kirby roll across them can bring a smile to anyone’s face. Pulling off a tricky maneuver and snagging some collectible, or destroying a tough enemy is always satisfying, and occasionally requires a bit of mental and physical dexterity.
This also presents a bit of a conundrum hidden within Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. Specifically, who is the game targeted at? Nintendo has always done a great job of keeping their games suitable for all ages, but with Kirby and the Rainbow Curse it feels like something was lost. Most of the game plays very lazily, with you moving Kirby through easy to navigate areas as he slowly rolls along. These sections would likely bore smaller children as the action is almost nowhere to be found. However, when the energy does pick up, many of the challenges could be too difficult for a younger audience, resulting in thrown controllers.
Nintendo, of course, compensates for this in a couple of ways. First off, the game offers drop in, drop out, co-op gameplay. With the Gamepad and a few controllers, you and your friends can join together against the forces of evil. The non-Gamepad players have more direct control over their characters, making them perfect for the less experienced players in the group. Unless you just have one of them pick up and carry Kirby around, in turn making this into a standard platformer.
Secondly, Nintendo dulls the difficulty more by giving players the option to skip to the next level if they die a few times. However, with the difficulty spikes hitting at random times, it feels like less of a solution and more of a band-aid. Still, if players are skilled enough to make their way through the clay-styled labyrinth, and have a long enough attention span to enjoy the relaxing gameplay style, then Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a great experience that is only made better by its colorful and unique art style.
As previously mentioned, the aesthetics of Kirby and the Rainbow Curse are certainly the main draw. Everything in the world is modeled out of clay, causing it to have a stop-motion look and feel. The world around Kirby is bright and vibrant, and the character designs and animation do a great job of selling this strange universe. Something about the art gives everything a sense of physicality that most modern games lack. If you were a fan of the art style from Kirby’s Epic Yarn then Rainbow Curse is perfect for you.
If only the gameplay had been able to manage such a universal level of quality, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse would stand alongside other Nintendo games as one of the best of the generation. There are glimpses of this, specifically when players are given more control over Kirby in missions that turn him into vehicles, such as a tank, submarine, or rocket. Here the levels are allowed to breathe a bit more, and feature more interesting scenarios. Also, the pace is quickened without jacking up the difficulty, resulting in a much more enjoyable curve. The more these types of levels show up, the better Kirby and the Rainbow Curse gets, it’s just unfortunate that they only make up a small percentage of the game.
Of course, for those that want to play through a collect-athon, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is right up their alley. Stars litter the screen throughout every level, get 100 of them and you can charge up Kirby for a more powerful attack. Use these correctly and you’ll gain access to secret areas of the map, and/or grab collectibles that unlock in-game items. Getting them all will certainly be a challenge and gives the game a definite longevity that fans should love.
With a unique aesthetic style, gameplay that actually utilizes the Gamepad, and full co-op support, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse sounds like the perfect Wii U game. Yet, actually playing the game elicits more yawns and frustrated groans than one might expect. There are certainly smiles and laughs to be had, such as when Kirby is flung into a wall and flattens out into a clay pancake, but those quickly outstay their welcome, leading to the player growing bored of the base mechanics. Perhaps if more variety had been thrown in, or if the pace had been quickened overall, there might be more entertainment hidden within the game. Without that, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is only worthwhile for those that are particularly drawn to its charms.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
- Available On: Wii U
- Published By: Nintendo
- Developed By: HAL Laboratory
- Genre: Platformer
- US Release Date: February 20th, 2015
- Reviewed On: Wii U
- Quote: "Kirby and the Rainbow Curse offers up unique visuals and gameplay, but largely fails to bring them together into a fun game. The colorful world is worth exploring, but only for those that are especially interested in the different nature of the game."
- Unique and colorful visuals
- Interesting gameplay mechanics
- Special stages are a lot of fun
- Odd difficulty curve
- Precision required throughout
- Slow pace creates boredom