Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush/Curse is an off-beat and quirky game from HAL laboratory. It's very easy to pick up but still offers quite a challenge. Maybe not of everyone but definitely something to try if you want to try something different.
For some reason the WiiU is turning out to be the console on which I get to experience long running Nintendo franchises for the first time. Not sure why I never played any of the earlier games but that is the case. This time around it’s Nintendo’s pink ball Kirby in it’s latest game Kirby and the Rainbow Curse.
Kirby games have been around since the very beginning during the NES days. The franchise has been handled by the same developer since that very first game. That studio, HAL laboratory, has been busy because this is their third title in half a year’s time. For those of us who, like me, haven’t played a Kirby game before you might know him from his appearances in that other HAL Laboratory game series: Super Smash Bros. Kirby’s trademark move is his ability to suck up his enemies and either use them as projectiles or adopt their powers. Kirby started out as a platformer but over the years his games have changed, even taking Mario-esque detours into the fun-racer genre. For this game Kirby is continuing the path he started on with his Nintendo DS game “Kirby: Canvas Curse”.
Like the DS game the player does not control Kirby directly. Instead you control the titular Rainbow Paintbrush (if you’re in US that is, in Europe the game is called “Kirby and the Rainbow Curse”). With it you can paint a rainbow colored path that Kirby will follow. Tapping will make Kirby speed up which also doubles as his primary attack. By drawing paths along the stages you guide Kirby to the end goal. Along the way Kirby can collect stars and up to five treasure chests. Collecting enough stars will earn you a golden medal and each chest contains an unlockable like figurines or music from the game.
Kirby’s trademark sucking-mechanic (no pun intended) is absent in this game. Instead Kirby can change into one of three types of vehicle: a tank, a submarine and a rocket. When in these alternate forms the gameplay mechanics change. For instance, as a tank Kirby only moves forward and will shoot at where the user points. As a sub however, Kirby will move to where the player points while he continuously fires missiles. In sub mode you can draw paths with the paintbrush to guide those missiles to where they need to go. Finally you have rocket form where Kirby turns into an unguided projectile that you need to guide using the paintbrush. These alternate modes a fun and a refreshing change in pace that add a welcome mix to the gameplay.
Apart from the standard moving mechanics Kirby also has a charge move that he can activate after he collects 100 stars. When powered up Kirby usually does significantly more damage and this form can also be used to reach otherwise unreachable parts of a level. The trick being that you still need to guide Kirby in the right direction. The charge move is also available in Kirby’s other forms all providing some different form of enhanced attack.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse/Paintbrush sports a quirky clay-like visual style. Even though the style is well executed it doesn’t really add anything to the game. Unlike what we’ve seen from the upcoming Yoshi’s Wooly World the clay theme isn’t integrated into the gameplay. There is no molding, terraforming or other clay like things happening in the game. What remains is a fun visual style that doesn’t do anything other than be fun to look at. It’s a shame HAL didn’t do anything with it as the upcoming Yoshi game has shown what fun things can be done with a theme like this.
The game also comes with a local multiplayer option. At any time during a normal Kirby stage a second player can use a second controller (like a Wiimote or a Pro controller) to take direct control of Waddle Dee. Waddle Dee has a basic platforming skillset meaning he can jump (and keep jumping mid-air) and attack. Just like Kirby Waddle Dee also has a charge attack when he collects more than 100 stars. Having direct control over Waddle Dee is both a blessing and a curse. The direct control feels familiar and it allows you to go places Kirby’s paintbrush path can’t always follow. But the game’s stages have been designed for Kirby’s paintbrush path and even though he can also jump on the path created for Kirby it’s not quite as easy for him. Luckily he’ll zip back to Kirby whenever he falls behind. This multiplayer works well in a support role. With Kirby’s main gameplay mechanic being so easy to pick up this multiplayer feels like a great way for parents to help out their children who want to try this game. What I find odd is that a game that is well suited for a younger audience hasn’t received full localization, making it just that little bit harder for younger, non-english, gamers to pick up.
One thing that also felt odd to me is the music in the game. I expected a game with such a colourful visual style to have a equally colourful soundtrack. Instead this game sports a soothing almost classical soundtrack. Obviously this is a personal preference but the music felt out of place to me.
As is almost mandatory for new Nintendo games Kirby and the Rainbow Curse/Paintbrush also has Amiibo support. The three figures from the Smash Bros collection, Kirby, King Dedede and Meta Knight, can be used to enhance Kirby’s abilities in certain levels. Using the Kirby Amiibo for instance will enable him to use his charge move (called the star dash) at will without having to first collect 100 stars. Cool little extra’s that will make the game a bit easier and a fun extra for those who own one of the compatible Amiibo.
This Kirby game falls into the easy to learn hard to master category. The gameplay mechanic is seemingly extremely simple but the level design lifts this game above being a simple game. Even though the mechanic itself is very simple, getting Kirby to do exactly what you want can be challenging and even frustrating. That said, I would still classify it as a casual game as it’s ultimate depth is limited. But that doesn’t mean the is bad, not at all! The game is fun, different and a welcome change of pace.
HAL laboratory delivers another well-crafted game. Kirby’s world is wonderfully quirky and sweet. The game’s simple mechanics can be deceiving as this game can be quite challenging. But overall it’s a casual experience that offers a great break from the norm. Ultimately it didn’t grab me like other Nintendo games have but if you’re looking to try something a little different be sure to give this title a try.