Friday, November 25, 2011

Kirby Mass Attack Review

Kirby Mass Attack (Nintendo DS) Review

OK, so it took longer to get to this than I had planned.  There's a reason for the delay and I'll get to it in the review*.
I'm gonna try to make the review a little more organized this time by using headers for what I consider the 4 main aspects of reviewing a game (Sound, Presentation, Graphics and Gameplay).

Like most Kirby games, the music is very upbeat, light-hearted and enjoyable.  However, unlike most Kirby games, the music is also fairly forgettable.  I doubt many tunes in this game will end up among classic video game tunes like the old 'Green Greens' theme did.
Still, the soundtrack is good and fitting for the game.  Not bad, just not spectacular.
The sound effects used in the game are just as nice, full of character and, of course, Kirby has the typical gibberish voice clips that have become standard for the series (since Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards).

Being a handheld platformer, Mass Attack takes the standard route of having levels laid out on world maps for you to select.  Similar to Super Mario Bros. 3; one of the first games to utilize this type of level-select; some levels become available to play even if you have not completed all that came before them.  However, it is essential to complete every level in order to finish the game (more on that in the Gameplay section).
The premise of the game is simple as you'd expect from Kirby:  The pink hero is magically torn into 10 of himself and you must complete several levels in order to obtain the power to put Kirby back together.
Throughout the game, you'll travel to five different worlds (Pop Star, and Volcano Valley to name 2) and complete a handful of levels in each.  The worlds all have standard themes, with Pop Star being the basic, grassy area as it's the first world of the game.  In Volcano Valley, you will of course find yourself contending with more fiery environments, brimming with lava and the like.
What little story sequences there are are presented with simple images and text describing the occurrences.  Since there really isn't much story to speak of, this is exactly as simple and straight-forward as you could want it to be.

This game is entirely 2D and, seeing as 3D graphics on the DS have rarely looked very good, that fact is much to its benefit.
 In fact, Kirby Mass Attack is about as beautiful as 2D handheld platformers get.  Everything is very vibrant, colourful and lively and just a joy to behold.  Sprites are richly animated, drawing lots of character out of very simple designs.  The boss battles are always a treat to relive just from how nice they look.
Simply put, the game looks great.

As already mentioned, Kirby Mass Attack is a platformer, and it involves Kirby being split into 10 Kirbys.
While admittedly skeptical after my last experience with a Kirby game, I picked up Mass Attack keeping in mind that Kirby's had a very good track record on the DS.  Canvas Curse, for instance, was one of the best launch titles for the system and was an effective proof of concept in how the touch screen could be utilized to improve gameplay.
Mass Attack employs a similar control scheme, using nothing but touching to control the entire game.  Tapping on the screen 'calls' your Kirbys and is your main method of movement through the game.  Tap an area to the left or right of where they are and your team will walk towards it; double-tap and they'll run.  Tap in a spot above them and they'll jump to it.  You can also 'flick' Kirbys; press on one and quickly drag the stylus in the direction you want to flick it and off it goes.  You'll use this to break blocks, push objects and also to latch onto enemies that are otherwise out of reach.
Similar to the main method of movement in Canvas Curse, you can also collect your Kirbys by holding the stylus down on a certain spot and then you can maneuver them through the air by drawing a line that the group will follow.
When starting each world, you will only have one Kirby.  In order to acquire more, you must eat different kinds of fruit, each worth their own specified number of points, in order to accumulate 100 points which produces another Kirby.  When you have the maximum team of 10 Kirbys, collecting 100 points-worth of fruit gives you additional score bonuses.
Every level has a specified minimum number of Kirbys you must have in order to play it.  In most cases, you won't have a problem meeting the quota.
Combating enemies works simply by tapping on them to call your Kirbys to attack.  The Kirbys will latch on to the enemy and start doing damage.  When the enemy is defeated, they slam it into the ground, awarding your points and fruit.  The number of Kirbys in your team is directly related to how much damage you can do in one go.  Many enemies are weak enough that only a few Kirbys can take care of them with no problem, however some larger enemies will be able to shake your team off even if you have all 10.  In these cases, you simply need to try multiple times to defeat the enemies.
Boss fights are mostly different in that causing damage to them usually involves some very light puzzle elements; figuring out what you need to do to get them in range of attack.
All in all, it's a very simple but still very enjoyable combat system.
*Some moderate replay value can be found in the Medals, hidden Kirby-faced coins in every level.  Most of these are gold-coloured and unessential to completing the game.  Unfortunately, every non-boss level prior to the fifth world also has one rainbow-coloured medal; all of which you must get in order to progress to the fifth world.  This is why it took me as long as it did to get to this review and is also why you must play every level in order to complete the game.  Some of the medals are quite a chore to track down and, in a parallel to Wind Waker, make this an annoying late-game fetch-quest that can really kill the fun.
This is the one glaring flaw in the game's design and about the only thing I'd really say is bad about it.  All in all, the title is still quite good.

With the Nintendo DS on its way out, we probably won't be seeing a whole lot of new games on it from now on.  Kirby Mass Attack is the latest, and probably last, outing for the pink puffball on the DS and it's a quality title that should warrant at least a rental if you're a fan.
Kirby games on the DS have been consistently good and Mass Attack has retained that reputation, utilizing older gimmicks that proved themselves, and adding new tricks to how you play.  Even if you don't see it the whole way through on account of the annoying Rainbow Medal fetch-quest, it is still a very nice experience.
In the end, it's not a revolutionary title by any means but if you want one last title to add to your DS library before the system is all but forgotten by developers, Kirby Mass Attack will work just fine.  

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