REVIEW: Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

Monday, March 16th, 2015

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Kirby and the Rainbow Curse | oprainfall
Title Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
Developer HAL Laboratory
Publisher Nintendo
Release Date February 20, 2015 (NA);
Q3/Q4 2015 (EU/AUS)
Genre Platformer
Platform Wii U
Age Rating ESRB – Everyone
Official Website

Among the games released in the DS’s first year on sale, I considered Kirby: Canvas Curse to be the first to showcase the potential in Nintendo’s then-fledgling system. Most of the launch games for the DS were either great tech demos with lots of experimental gimmickry or awful ports with tacked-on touch control. Canvas Curse was different. It fully utilized the DS touch screen and turned it into a controller all by itself, providing a great amount of challenge and unlockables, as well. Add the head-turning art style, which took a page from the modern art playbook and made everything bright and colorful, and Canvas Curse was, in my opinion, at least, the DS’s first great game, and is still one of my favorite entries in the Kirby canon. So, imagine my surprise when Nintendo revealed it was getting a Wii U-exclusive spiritual sequel.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, the pink guy’s debut solo outing on the Wii U, could be called an underdog amongst the sea of titles in the Wii U library simply because of the system it’s on. Indeed, unlike the DS family, where touch control is utilized in pretty much every game, the Wii U GamePad’s touchscreen has been a rather under-utilized part of the controller, aside from menus, Miiverse and games that have better control methods. Leave it to Kirby, then, to finally give the GamePad a grand game focused on touch, with an adorable claymation art style, plenty of unlockables to collect and some of the toughest levels in the series. Aside from a couple of minor hiccups, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse adapts the core mechanic from Canvas Curse, adds plenty of elements and fan service from other Kirby titles and turns it into a good chunk of adorably hard platforming delight.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse | Kirby

Here he is, in all his adorable clay glory!

The story in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is actually quite similar to some of the series’ most recent installments, at least until the finale. At first, it could be easily compared to Canvas Curse and Triple Deluxe in that all three games feature a witch with an artistic name (instead of Drawcia or Paintra, respectively, we have Claycia) who can create things out of her preferred artistic medium. In the beginning, while Kirby goes on a picnic, Claycia saps out all of the color in Dream Land. Then, the benevolent fairy Elline, who looks a lot like Ribbon from Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, revives him and Bandana Dee, and the three must set out to regain Dream Land’s color and find out the truth about what happened. Although, as usual, the story takes a backseat to the platforming, there is a rather interesting twist at the end that harkens back to some of the best games in the series. No spoilers, but, as a fan of the series since at least Dream Land 3, I was pleasantly surprised by the turn of events.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse | Rocket

My finger is on the button…my finger is on the button…

Kirby games have always been incredibly charming in the design arena, and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is no different. As far as the graphics, art style and cutscenes go, Rainbow Curse is the Aardman to other Wii U games’ Pixar, in that it eschews CGI for an absolutely adorable claymation aesthetic. This is possibly the only case where a low frame rate — rumored to be an intentional design choice — actually makes the cutscenes look better. Don’t be discouraged by that statement, though — it’s just one of the many examples of HAL Laboratory’s fantastic attention to detail in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. From the puffs of realistic smoke that appear when enemies are hit to Kirby’s little clay bandage and adorably miserable facial expression when his HP gets too low or even his scared expression when falling from a gondola, there are so many painstaking details in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse that are a huge part of the game’s charm. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse also has plenty of beautiful music, with new remixes of classic Kirby songs that add to its artistic aesthetic. There are also lots of older songs to collect and listen to in the game’s jukebox mode — 112 in all — so there’s something for every Kirby fan as far as music is concerned.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse | Claykken

Let’s not forget that adorable mask Kirby dons while he’s underwater.

Although Kirby games are usually considered easy, and this game just looks so goshdarned cute, don’t let the box art’s clay Kirby with a big smile on his face fool you. Sure, its predecessor Canvas Curse was a fairly difficult game to begin with, but Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is, arguably, the hardest Kirby game since Amazing Mirror broke Game Boy Advances everywhere a decade ago. Like its Wii platforming brethren, it’s also very back to basics. There’s no DLC — that is, unless one considers amiibos to be so — and no frills except for collectables, extra challenges and local multiplayer.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse | Boss

And I mean it. No frills whatsoever.

The gameplay in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is as experimental as Canvas Curse, but it also takes a couple of mechanics from Kirby’s previous “artistic” home console outing, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, adds a few more and creates a vibrant and varied platformer. Like Canvas Curse, it’s a deceptively simple concept that can be summarized in three sentences: Kirby’s a ball now. You wield a magical paintbrush that paints colorful boundaries called Rainbow Ropes. Get Kirby to the end of the level. Seems simple, right? Not so fast.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse | Burning Secrets

One thing that does stay the same, though, is the challenge.

Check out page 2 for more artfully crafted fun!

About Will Whitehurst

Will joined the Operation Rainfall Campaign soon after news broke of that infamous French interview about Xenoblade. Subsequently, he got actively involved and became a staff member in July/August 2011. He is currently the head of the Japanese translation team, and loves to play, discuss, debate and learn more about games. Will gravitates towards unconventional action games and RPGs, but plays pretty much anything except Madden. He is also currently attending college, honing his Japanese skills and preparing for medical school. (Coincidentally, Trauma Center is one of his favorite game series of all time.)

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