Nintendo often thrives most when utilizing unique and innovative means of control and gameplay concepts. This fact is demonstrated greatly in the latest Kirby installment for the Wii U, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. Fans of the similar Kirby’s Canvas Curse on the original DS almost a decade ago, will quickly find the resemblance in this otherwise unique platformer, as it uses the same control method that Canvas Curse so heavily relied on. While the DS iteration in 2005 was a strange new direction for the Kirby series, this spiritual successor for the Wii U takes this interesting formula of drawing on the touch screen to move Kirby, and creates an even more fleshed out, visually appealing, and overall improved game that is great for quick doses of platforming fun.
The backstory to this game is about as basic as the gameplay itself, which I have no qualms about, as the game is (and should be) more about its interesting control scheme and core gameplay than the extra fluff of a deep narrative.
The ever-familiar Dream Land is a colorful and carefree place as we see our lovable pink ball of clay, Kirby, playing with his old time buddy, Waddle Dee, when they are interrupted by the evil Claycia, who apparently has the power to suck the color right out of entire worlds. She does just that, and Kirby is guided by Elline, the magic paintbrush fairy, into the galaxy, where Kirby (and Waddle Dee if you opt for the multiplayer) are forced to fight their way through hordes of Elline’s clay-molded baddies and bring color back to Dream Land. It may sound a little silly, but then again, so is the concept of drawing streaks of rainbow paint in the air and using it as a track in which to guide your hero.
The graphical style is as unique and appealing as the controls, making you feel as though you are playing through a stop motion animation. The vibrant and colorful glow of the detailed claymation provides a near hypnotic visual experience that immerses you into the world. Unfortunately you don’t get to experience much of this, however, as you spend the majority of your time honed in on the smaller and less visually stimulating touch screen of the gamepad. The variety in worlds is a bit typical, adhering to the "glass land, desert land, water land" formula, though they do grow somewhat more interesting and diverse as you progress.
After a few short scribbles on the Wii U’s controller, the control scheme becomes quite easy to wrap your head around. Drawing streaks of paint underneath your spherical hero to keep him rolling is a breeze, and makes for an enjoyable experience overall. If you haven’t played the aforementioned DS Kirby title, you may find it a bit more of a strange concept, but the learning “curve” is pretty “straightforward” regardless (if you’ll excuse the lame puns).
The game also breaks the monotony of simply guiding a rolling ball across the screen by providing certain variations of vehicle “forms” that Kirby takes on that allows for unique mechanics of their own, similar to Yoshi’s Island on the SNES. These concepts feel more like gimmicks, but still manage to be entertaining for the most part, and help to keep up the pacing of the game which borders on feeling a bit stagnant and dull at times. You get to play as a submarine, a tank, and even a rocketship. While these mechanics take a bit more getting used to, and can be a tad jarring after playing several levels in the traditional manner, it is still no sweat getting used to for the most part.
There is also the neat feature of gaining a super-powered giant Kirby that can plow his way through just about anything, making it far easier to progress and rake in those stars and points. This is a blast to use, though it can be catch you off guard at times, especially when Kirby occasionally launches off screen, providing some trouble and making it difficult to retrieve him until your special attack sadly wears out.
You also have the opportunities to team up with a friend, who, unlike our main hero, is actually able to walk. As Waddle Dee, your friend can give you a hand by skewing enemies with his spear and can even carry him about, giving your drawing hand some rest. The multiplayer not only makes for a helpful addition, but provides an extra element of fun and keeps the game fresh.
Even by your lonesome, however, you have the benefit of being eased into a pretty steady and simplistic gaming experience that doesn’t provide many intense trials and tribulations, particularly in the first couple of worlds. While this game does prove to be a bit more tricky than the infamously simplistic Kirby’s Epic Yarn on the Wii, it nonetheless is one of the easier platforming games I’ve played. I found myself spending very few lives up until the final couple of worlds, and even this was mostly thanks to me getting greedy and attempting to earn gold medals while snagging every treasure chest provided.
Speaking of the medals and treasure chests, I did appreciate this addition as it certainly provides a bit more depth and replay value. You will often yourself itching to replay a stage just to collect that tricky treasure chest that you were oh-so-close to grabbing during the first run. The medals and chests also directly provide for more gameplay, as you will unlock various challenges that you can play throughout. The challenges, which are essentially recycled and rearranged bits from the main stage challenges, similarly make for a lengthier experience and add some more variety. Yet, they do little to offer much in the way of rewards by themselves, as you are generally only treated to miniscule unlockables like music tracks and figurines.
With that said, where Kirby and the Rainbow Curse truly shines is not with depth, complexity, or unlockables, but rather, with pure and simplistic gameplay that most anyone can pick up and play. It does border on being a little too simple at times, and I couldn’t help but feel as though I was playing through a glorified mobile game in various spots. Though, sometimes you need that more relaxing game experience that doesn’t make you want to throw your controller at the TV, and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse certainly fills in the role of that game. Ultimately, while it is nothing mind blowing, and could be a bit shallow at times, this is still a charming and enjoyable platforming experience that is definitely worth taking for a spin.