Release Date: June 10, 2016Platform: 3DSDeveloper: HAL LaboratoryPublisher: NintendoGenre: Action, platformer
Kirby: Planet Robobot builds off the successful foundation of 2014’s Triple Deluxe, utilizing the same sidescrolling playing field and combat physics of the 2.5D platformer, but taking more risks in the gameplay department than past games in the series. The Robobot sections transform the spirit of traditional Kirby games while offering a unique blend of fighting and puzzle-solving gameplay, and Kirby still manages to look as cute as can be seated behind the controls of the powerful pink machine.
Kirby and robots might not seem like the most natural combination, especially when the little pink puff has been paired with things like yarn and clay in the past, but the commitment to robotics displayed in the game actually works surprisingly well. Instead of the usual green grass environments of Dream Land, Planet Robobot instead features bustling city streets, mechanized wharfs, and even a glitzy casino where you’ll go toe-to-toe with stray billiard balls and a punishing roulette wheel. In the same regard, boss fights are frantic and frequent, with excellent designs like a nightmarish robotic version of Whispy Woods.
While Kirby is still able to copy enemy abilities as per the norm, so too can the Robobot, which opens up the game to a whole new world of possibilities. In most levels, scanning enemies gives the Robobot devastating flamethrowers or whirling metal saw blades, and it’s an absolute blast to obliterate some of the bigger baddies and obstacles in this manner. But in other levels, the transformations are more robust, resulting in a giant motorbike or a fighter jet that lead to fun driving and shooting stretches of gameplay, respectively. There are also some brand new abilities to play around with as well, including the pill-throwing Doctor ability and the Earthbound inspired ESP ability.
Kirby’s new mechanized means of combat and traversal works in harmony with Planet Robobot’s emphasis on dual visual planes: a distinct foreground and background that influence one another at regular intervals. These alternate planes are incorporated into many of the game’s best environmental puzzles, requiring players to be aware of multiple pathways simultaneously and to use the Robobot to manipulate various platforms in order to snag the glittering collectable in the distance. Code Cubes must be collected for story progression, while dozens of sticker collectables are used to customize your Robobot’s appearance with Kirby-themed decals.
Outside of the main story, Planet Robobot features a few brief extra modes to round out the total experience. Kirby 3D Rumble involves fending off waves of baddies on a series of 3D arenas and provides another fun and different take on classic Kirby gameplay. Here, Kirby can spit out enemies in any direction for greater point combos, and the only downside is that it’s over too soon: I could see Kirby 3D Rumble easily expanded into a full-fledged game. The other main addition is a modified version of the boss-rush Arena mode, which is another success, given the high quality of Planet Robobot’s boss encounters.
Underneath all the mechanical bells and whistles, Kirby: Planet Robobot is exactly what you would expect from a 2.5D Kirby game. If you liked Triple Deluxe, then odds are you’ll find something to enjoy with this latest offering as well. But it’s the addition of the Robobot and the unusual environments that give Planet Robobot a unique feel and a cool twist to its gameplay, making the robot concept a welcomed addition to the series at large. While Kirby may be more comfortable around softer materials like yarn or clay, there’s no denying that the little guy can certainly hold his own in a giant war machine, too.
Joe Jasko is a staff writer.