• Kirby Mass Attack Review Nintendo DS (Atsumete! Kirby)

    Kirby is a character that will be familiar to most gamers. Since first appearing in Kirby's Dream Land on the Game Boy in the early nineties, there have been over a dozen games to feature the instantly recognisable pink ball. Although traditionally a platformer based around the mechanic of inhaling items and enemies, sometimes mimicking their abilities, not all games featuring Kirby have followed this template. Kirby Mass Attack (あつめて! カービィ or "Atsumete! Kirby" in Japan) is the latest one to break the mould.


    As the story goes, an evil wizard has split Kirby into ten parts and he must defeat him in order to regain his original form. This carries over into the core mechanics of the game. Starting off with just one Kirby, eating fruit earns points and doing so will fill a meter on the top screen. Different fruit is worth different amounts of points from one to thirty although special items will grant a new character instantly. Once this reaches one hundred, another Kirby will become available up to a maximum of ten. Having more characters on screen isn't just helpful for defeating enemies more quickly and easily; it's also necessary for reaching some secret areas and items and indeed entering some levels. Should the player come across a stage which requires a higher number of characters than they currently have, previously cleared stages can be replayed in order to increase the number of Kirbys. Making this task easier are doors hidden in each stage. Although they will be inaccessible the first time through, on repeat plays finding and entering them allows the player to skip to the exit, keeping their overall character count. This is both handy and useful, saving the player the tedium of playing already finished stages to their end, time after time, just to increase their numbers.



    Controlling an army of ten characters may sound like it would be challenging or confusing, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The game is controlled entirely with the stylus and controls very well it is both responsive and easy to become accustomed to. Touching anywhere on the screen brings up a star icon and this acts as the destination for the characters. Holding the stylus down on the screen will allow them to move in a constant motion and repeatedly tapping turns the walking motion into a faster, running animation. Additionally, if the stylus is pressed against one spot on the touch screen, all available characters will group together and will follow a path drawn by the stylus. This element is useful for quickly moving a large group of characters and is reminiscent in controls to Canvas Curse, another earlier Kirby DS title. Flicking on a Kirby will make it jump which is used to both reach higher levels of a stage and also to break blocks or other obstacles. Rounding out the simple controls is touching an enemy in order to have all available Kirbys attack it. Some larger enemies require more characters to be attacking it at the same time in order to be defeated and this means that players need to choose their battles wisely depending on the amount of characters they have available to them.

    Once the maximum number of Kirbys has been reached, the player is by no means able to relax. If attacked and damaged by an enemy, projectile or a part of the environment, the Kirby will turn from the standard pink colour to blue. If they are damaged again, they essentially die, turning into an angel and floating off towards the top of the screen. At this point, another Kirby can be flicked towards the deceased, pulling it back to the ground and turning it back to its vulnerable blue colour. Checkpoints in the levels can be used to turn a blue Kirby back into a pink one, meaning that while it is possible to see the character count drop rapidly, cautious playing will allow the player to replenish their army and have them all at full health. There is only one of these checkpoints in each stage, sothe player is always required to play carefully so as not to lose too many characters. Even more helpfully, on occasion a melon symbol will appear beside previously cleared stages, giving the player the chance to play them again, this time with the melons (worth 30 points) being the sole fruit throughout, making it quick and easy to collect more points and Kirbys.

    The game is divided into different worlds, with each world being broken up into a number of stages. Each one has a number on it that relates to the amount of Kirbys the player must have at that point in order to enter into it. Upon entering a stage, the player is greeted with not just gorgeous 2D art and backgrounds, but equally fantastic music. The Kirby games have always given off a bright, colourful and happy vibe, and Mass Attack is no different. The stages are, for the most part, traditional platforming fare left to right scrolling with occasional jumping. What sets the game apart however, is the sheer amount of variety in the stages and the way the core mechanics of the game (commanding an army of Kirbys) tie into everything from attacking enemies to solving simple puzzles to fighting bosses it really does feel like everything in the game takes advantage of the simple touch-based controls, in that regard making it feel like one of the very best uses of the touch screen in the entire DS library. The player can expect to see new mechanics and abilities introduced throughout the entirety of the game which keeps things feeling fresh, but never overwhelming. Whether it's being underwater, riding a surfboard or controlling a tank, (which, in a great touch, uses Kirbys as ammunition) it always feels like there is something new around each corner and as a result, it is easy to lose a lot of time to each play session.



    This also carries over to secrets and hidden items. There are a number of things in the environment of each stage that can be manipulated in order to uncover surprises. Ordering three Kirbys to latch onto a root that is hanging from the ceiling may see them fail, but throw ten at it and they will pull it down, locating fruit or something else useful. There are some routes through each stage that will challenge the player, requiring a maximum number of characters and some deft stylus controls, but there is usually always another route nearby that will get the player to the exit without much bother, making it great not only for players of different gaming skill, but also providing a good reason to revisit each stage in order to see and collect everything. Another way this is done is through hidden medals. Each stage contains a number of them and while some are easy to see and collect, out in the open, others are well hidden or in tricky to reach areas (some being hidden in treasure chests which must be opened with a key, again well tucked away) and anyone who sets their sights on collecting all of them throughout the game will find themselves extending their playtime by quite a margin. Rainbow medals also appear in each stage and, without going into spoilers, collecting each of these is essential to seeing the entirety of the game. Scores are awarded once a stage has been cleared and this provides yet more reason to play through a stage again, aiming to beat a previous high score.



    The inclusion of so many collectibles and hidden items goes some way to both adding more time to the experience,and to adding a degree of difficulty. Previous Kirby games have been on the easy side and for the most part, Mass Attack follows suit. There are a couple of stages in world four that may pose a challenge but, for the most part, the difficulty level remains low if the player is only concerned with making it to the exit of each stage. So if you prefer something a bit more stretching, aim for scores and medals from the off.



    Those that finish the main game and are left wanting more even after collecting all the medals will be pleased with the large amount of mini-games that unlock as stages are cleared. Comprising everything from a music player to a variant of whack-a-mole to pinball and a fantastically addictive (and high quality) vertical shooter, it's no exaggeration to say that there is more content within them alone than there is in many of the shovelware compilations found so frequently on the DS. Achievements of sorts are also awarded for reaching certain milestones and these can also be browsed in a separate screen.



    Kirby Mass Attack is a game that takes a familiar character, takes him out of his usual surroundings and becomes one of the very best examples of stylus based touch screen controls on the system. As well as both looking and sounding beautiful, it plays extremely well, provides a lot of replayability options and bonus content that alone would put other games to shame. Even with the release of the 3DS, the DS has had some outstanding releases this year and this is no different, making it an essential purchase for not just anyone who has enjoyed a Kirby game in the past, but anyone who thought that quality touch screen controlled games had become a thing of the past.


    Pros:

    - Superb presentation.
    - Controls like a dream.
    - Packed with bonus content.

    Cons:

    - Simplistic stylus controls may put some people off.
    - Not the longest game.

    Score: 9/10


    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Golgo's Avatar
      Golgo -
      Sounds fantastic. Funny how Kirby seems to bring the best out of touchscreen controls. Canvas Curse was genius. Funny also how Kirby seems to have become the most high-profile mascot for Ninty in recent years, with more to come on Wii. Go Kirby!
    1. abigsmurf's Avatar
      abigsmurf -
      It's a shame it sounds like it's another trivial Kirby game with any difficulty coming from collectables.

      Kirby is one of the few series where the easyness actually detracts from the game for me.
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