Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
Kirby: Canvas Curse for DS marked one of the earliest examples of a DS game taking good advantage of the novel (in 2005) touchscreen. With players drawing lines on the lower screen to guide the hero, it was different from any platformer out there – a compliment that rings true even 10 years later. Rainbow Curse on Wii U is mechanically similar to its DS predecessor, but has an incredibly charming art style (even by Kirby’s high standards) and other interesting wrinkles that make it stand apart – even though it gets frustrating now and then.
Rainbow Curse looks amazing; the world is made of clay, and everything appears molded by human hands. Elements of the world squish and move just like you would expect the colorful putty to do if it suddenly came to life. It feels like you could drag your finger across the screen to smear the clay, making the stunning art direction one of the big highlights. Kirby has always had a whimsical look, and his new clay style does not disappoint. It may be a controversial statement, but I think he looks better in clay than he does in yarn.
In the minimal story, the color has been removed from the world, making it difficult for Kirby to eat apples. It’s up to him and a sentient paintbrush (i.e. the player) to draw lines across the levels to move Kirby toward his destination. You don’t control Kirby directly, which is where the majority of frustrations begin. Rainbow Curse is ostensibly a platformer, and having only secondary control of the character can be unnecessarily difficult. I wasn’t rolling off into pits of death too often, but I never felt that Kirby was doing exactly what I wanted him to do. Thankfully, the levels are laid out in such a way that mistakes are easy to compensate for, but more precision (and not just a wider net to catch you when you fail) would have been much more satisfying.
Moving Kirby might be troublesome, but I found lots to appreciate in the boss and level design. Moving Kirby from point A to B with a series of hills and platforms is not always your main goal; some levels flirt with puzzles requiring you to lay out paths for rolling metal balls to activate switches. One later level even splits Kirby in two forcing you to control both Kirbys at once. I enjoyed getting a break from straight navigation, but I also enjoyed solving the admittedly simple puzzles and unexpected directions of these sections.
New transformations like a tank and rocket ship also do a good job mixing up the levels. Most (but not all) Kirby games dole out transformations throughout the levels, but here they are segregated into their own sections letting the player focus on the new mechanics. The former creates fun on-rails shooter sections, and the latter creates high-speed sprints to the end of levels. I was always excited to come across the telltale canvas announcing a transformation section.
Co-op shines, allowing up to three players to play a more traditional Kirby platformer while the GamePad player focuses on Kirby and drawing lines and platforms. You won’t run into any co-op-required or even focused sections, but with the painting of lines to create platforms, you get a sense you’re all working together as opposed to just playing the same game simultaneously.
I never fully fell in love with only having secondary control of Kirby. Drawing platform lines is undeniably different, but I’m not convinced it’s the best way to play a platformer. Rainbow Curse smartly toys with the mechanic, adding surprising twists and changes, and by the end I was having a good time – even if I still was yelling at Kirby to just do what I told him every now and then.
Kirby looks fantastic in clay and drawing platform lines is different, but I’m not convinced it’s the best way to play.