Release Date: February 20, 2015Platform: Wii UDeveloper: HAL LaboratoryPublisher: NintendoGenre: Platformer
Hey, remember Kirby: Canvas Curse? The 2005 release for the Nintendo DS made great use of that device’s touch screen by allowing players to draw lines with the DS stylus that Kirby could use to make his way across the levels. It was a game designed from the ground up to take advantage of one of the platform’s main features, the DS touchscreen, and most critics thought it worked really well.
The fact that this year’s Kirby and the Rainbow Curse has a similar sounding title should tell you up front what’s in store. It’s clear that Nintendo set out to make a sequel to help showcase another touchscreen, this time the one on the Wii U’s Gamepad. In that endeavor, I have to say they were successful. Rainbow Curse is an enjoyable enough 8-hour romp through 28 unique stages that successfully demonstrates what the Wii U Gamepad can accomplish. You will use the Gamepad stylus to guide Kirby every step of the way.
The title uses the Gamepad so well, in fact, that it creates a rather bizarre problem. Rainbow Curse is supposed to be a bigger, better version of Canvas Curse that you can play on your television. Except, if you’re playing as Kirby, you won’t ever actually look at your TV. At all.
And that’s a shame. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse features gorgeous, colorful graphics with stop motion animation that are a joy to look at on a big screen. But the TV is a mirror image of what you are doing on the Gamepad, where the graphics just don’t have the same pop. Because this game requires constant use of the stylus, it’s much easier to just keep your eyes pointed towards the Gamepad. In fact, trying to quickly glance at the TV in the middle of a level could cause you to lose track of where you are drawing the next line and cause a mistake.
The gameplay does feel great and the control is precise, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit strange that I was playing a console game that encouraged me to not look at the television. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse feels like it could have easily been adapted for the 3DS, or as a downloadable title exclusive to the Gamepad, no TV required. But the Wii U still needs more key exclusives to set it apart from its competitors, so here we are.
There is perhaps one saving grace for this conundrum and it comes in the form of the game’s multiplayer. Rainbow Curse can support up to 4 players. One person must always guide Kirby using the Gamepad, but the other 3 players can use a normal Wii controller to jump into the game as a “Waddle Dee.” Waddles can help keep Kirby on track by cleaning up mistakes made by the player using the Gamepad. It doesn’t significantly change the gameplay, but provides a sometimes much appreciated boost.
There is also another benefit of playing as a Waddle: you can actually look at the TV. The player using the Gamepad absolutely controls the gameplay, but a Waddle can use the TV to look at the big picture (literally), and anticipate any upcoming problems. I did have a chance to play a good chunk of the levels with another person, and I have to say that I got much more enjoyment out of playing as a Waddle than I did while playing as Kirby. Being able to sit back, relax and look at the big screen was a welcome change of pace compared to being hunched over the Gamepad. If you’re going to play Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, you really should find a friend or two in order to get the best experience. In fact, the game features some short mini boss fights exclusive to multiplayer that will allow the Waddles to shine.
All of that said, I won’t knock the game for its weird dynamics. I found the title to be just as enjoyable as many of Kirby’s past adventures, and was even surprised by how much the game challenged me in the later levels. Thankfully, you’ll find a big supply of 1UPs scattered throughout the game that adequately compensates for this ramp up in difficulty.
The stylus and touchscreen create some truly interesting puzzles to solve that would not be possible if this was a traditional platformer. Kirby can transform into different shapes, as per usual, to create some different experiences as the game progresses. You can turn into a rocket, submarine and much more The transformations usually have their own specific levels that provide a nice break from the frequent scribbling when Kirby is in his regular form.
Each world will usually feature some standard gameplay, a new transformation and a boss fight. It’s a diverse enough formula, although I did feel that some of the later levels were a little too long for my taste. Rainbow Curse also features a decent amount of collectible items like stars and trophies for those who want to draw out their experience, but it’s not super compelling.
Outside of the main story mode, there is also a “challenge” mode that focuses on solving puzzles through precise gameplay. Kirby only has mere seconds to quickly collect various items in each of these mini-stages. If you’re struggling with getting the mechanics down in the main campaign, Challenge Mode is actually a great way to train your brain on when and where to draw those colorful lines.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse isn’t perfect, and could have just as easily been released as a single player handheld title. But the game is also a worthy sequel to Canvas Curse that’s good enough to deserve a spot in your library for when you need a break from the Wii U’s more popular franchises.