By Will Whitehurst / March 16th, 2015
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse has many tricks up its sleeve, only some of which come from its spiritual predecessor. As in Canvas Curse, loops make Kirby go faster, Rainbow Ropes can block things such as lasers and fire, touching Kirby makes him dash and the paint used to make Rainbow Ropes must be recharged. That’s where the similarities between this game and its prequel end. Unlike Canvas Curse, which utilized Kirby’s trademark Copy Abilities, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is the third platforming-focused game in the series, after Epic Yarn and Mass Attack, which does not rely on this signature mechanic at all. Instead, Rainbow Curse takes a cue from Epic Yarn and focuses its gameplay around collecting an item—in this case, stars, as opposed to beads—and players are ranked bronze, silver or gold for the amount of stars they collect. When Kirby gets 100 stars, he can use a Star Dash, where he becomes a giant and powerful version of himself that can break through steel boxes and destroy enemies with ease. The Star Dash is not only necessary to get treasure chests and kill certain enemies, but it’s also really useful in the game’s boss fights, which are as enthralling and complex as the levels themselves. In the first boss fight, for example, Whispy Woods drops bombs instead of apples, and you must guide the bombs towards Whispy Woods with a Star Dash. There are also areas where you cannot draw Rainbow Ropes, making some levels particularly challenging.
Another mechanic Kirby and the Rainbow Curse takes from Epic Yarn is special transformations. Again, Kirby does not use Copy Abilities, so the game utilizes three special forms for Kirby that can get him through almost any kind of terrain. When Elline sees a canvas, she can turn Kirby into one of three forms, depending on the level. The transformation sequences boast another treat for longtime Kirby fans, as Kirby briefly transforms into one of his animal friends — Coo the owl, Kine the fish or Rick the hamster — when he turns into a rocket, submarine or tank, respectively. These add to the variety and are all quite awesome, but the rocket stages are my personal favorite. There’s a sort of thrilling quality in making rocket Kirby narrowly escape an airship that’s about to explode and drawing a path to lead the way. Also, although not a transformation per se, Kirby can ride a gondola through certain stages, and the Rainbow Ropes are used to make a path for it.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse has plenty of unlockables to find, with up to five treasure chests scattered around each main stage. Some of the loot includes those adorable clay figurines and the aforementioned music selections from Kirby’s vast history. Also included are pages from Elline’s diary, which have an adorable rough draft sketch quality all their own and provide quite a bit of backstory. But perhaps the most intriguing are dozens of tough bonus challenges to complete, which extend the game’s length by quite a bit, have strict time limits, and range in difficulty from somewhat easy to absolutely ridiculous. Hardcore platforming fans will definitely enjoy these, but let’s just say this game makes you earn that 100% completion mark.
In spite of the no-frills philosophy behind Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, HAL Laboratory has added a few things that can help out struggling players. For example, if a level gets too hard, players have the option of simply skipping it, which is a nice touch for those who can’t take the challenge. If you want to keep trying, well, there’s nothing here to compare to Donkey Kong Country’s Super Guide or the Golden Tanooki Suit in recent Mario entries… that is, unless you own one of the three Kirby amiibo. If you use Kirby, you can Star Dash at any time throughout the level. If you’re the lucky owner of a King Dedede amiibo, you get increased health and a cute little King Dedede hat. If you’re the even luckier sort with a Meta Knight in their possession, you get a boost in attack power and Meta Knight’s cute little mask (although you don’t turn blue). Fortunately, Nintendo has wisely chosen to limit the amount of times players can use amiibo power ups, and you can’t even use amiibos in some levels, such as boss fights and levels which rely on transformations. Of course, maybe the fact that the King Dedede and Meta Knight amiibo are really freakin’ hard to find at the time of writing (especially the latter) might be part of that, but this is also a good testament to this game’s focus on hardcore platforming.
If amiibo don’t help you out, perhaps a few friends can. The local multiplayer co-op in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a sort of happy medium between the friendship-ruining shenanigans of a New Super Mario Bros. title and the more laid-back nature of the co-op in Kirby’s Epic Yarn. In the four-player co-op mode, your three friends can utilize Wiimotes, Wii U Pro Controllers or Classic Controllers to play as Bandana Dees. They basically serve as Kirby’s babysitters, in that they assist Kirby in fighting enemies and carry Kirby around out of harm’s way. Be warned, however, that your friends’ Bandana Dees only have half of Kirby’s HP, but can be revived after a short period of time. It’s a very fun affair, that’s for sure.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse doesn’t have many faults, but there are a few that keep it from joining the likes of, say, the Dark Matter trilogy and Super Star. First, the length is a bit shorter than most of the other games in the series. There are only 21 main levels and seven boss fights across the game’s seven different worlds. Some of the levels themselves can get rather lengthy, but the game just seems to end a little too quickly; it took me just over six hours to complete the main game, with one caveat — I’m sure the unlockables I still need to acquire, not to mention the 48 challenges, will keep me playing for at least several more. Second, Kirby’s clay form is occasionally hard to control, especially in the last three worlds of the game where the difficulty spikes up quite a bit. Levels which utilize the gondola are quite tricky, as well, but there are not very many of them. (Thank goodness 1-ups are plentiful in this game.) Lastly, since the game is exclusively controlled by the GamePad, looking at the TV is a terrible idea. And that’s a shame, because Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a beautiful game that doesn’t deserve to be viewed on such a small screen.
And yet, even with those minor complaints, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is still redeemed by one other great quality: its price tag. Like fellow innovative platformer Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker before it, Nintendo has decided to price Kirby and the Rainbow Curse at $40, which makes it all the more worth a look. This game’s delicate balancing act between sheer cuteness and inventive difficulty is why its reception has been so polarizing, but I enjoyed it a lot. It’s filled to the brim with charm and is well worth your $40 if you’re a Kirby fan. It has a satisfying combination of Canvas Curse‘s touchscreen base and Epic Yarn‘s transformations, with a unique art style and GamePad-snapping difficulty all its own. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse proves, in its own way, that the Wii U can be considered a giant DS at the end of the day ― and I mean that in the best way possible.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is available on Amazon:
Review copy was supplied by the author.
Pages: 1 22D platformerHAL LaboratoryKirbyKirby and the Rainbow CurseKirby Canvas CurseNintendoWii U