Kirby: Mass Attack
With Nintendo’s portable focus squarely set on 3DS recently, it’s easy to forget that a new Kirby adventure is on its way to the good old DS. In his latest entry on the system, Kirby Mass Attack puts gamers in control of up to 10 versions of the adorable pink puffball. Featuring stylus-only controls and some gameplay elements reminiscent of Pikmin, it beats Squeak Squad, Super Star Ultra, and Canvas Curse as the best franchise entry on DS.
Outside of a brief exposition explaining how the evil Necrodeus splits our hero into 10 pieces, the game wastes little time dropping you into the action. Each hub world starts you with only one Kirby, and you’re tasked with collecting fruit to add more to your count. Similar to the star doors in Mario 64, it takes a certain amount of Kirbys (up to 10) to enter each subsequent level.
Once inside a level, your crew is controlled by dragging a star to the group’s destination. A double-tap makes them run, a single tap allows for more precise positioning, and tapping an enemy causes the whole group to hop aboard and pummel them into oblivion. Some enemies won’t be vulnerable from the front, so you must flick Kirbys with the stylus for better positioning. Flinging your group onto the back of a baddie to take them down reminded me of Pikmin, and the flick mechanic offers a surprising amount of control.
Most stages simply require you to get to the exit with as many Kirbys as possible, but the game occasionally throws in one-off mechanics that do a great job of mixing up the experience. One places the group in a tank that shoots Kirbys out one-by-one, while others have you influencing the direction of a hot air balloon or a teetering tree by positioning your group accordingly.
Each stage features several collectible medals, which serve to unlock an impressive amount of extras. First you unlock basic minigames like whack-a-mole, but you’ll eventually open up more interesting diversions like a pinball game, a bare-bones RPG minigame, and a surprisingly complete shooter called Strato Patrol EOS.
Even if your attention is turned to the new generation of portable systems, it’s worth taking a step back to play Kirby Mass Attack. With solid touch-based control mechanics, a wealth of unlockables, and the classic Kirby charm, it’s another great first-party experience on a system full of them.
With the Kirby charm and some novel gameplay mechanics, Mass Attack beats Squeak Squad, Super Star Ultra, and Canvas Curse as the best franchise entry on DS.