Each level begins with only a single Kirby, but the levels are full of fruit to collect, and for every hundred points of fruit you eat you’ll get another Kirby up to a maximum of ten.
They’ll move a little even if you’re not controlling them, and watching them climbing all over each other is amusing all by itself. Kirbys can be lost along the way if you’re not careful, but you can always get more by collecting fruit.
Or, if you’re quick, you can bring a damaged Kirby back to life. One hit will turn a Kirby blue, and a second will turn him into a ghost, which floats up toward the top of the screen. Flick another Kirby at him to bring him back down. There are many ways this is all applied in the levels, which have a variety of puzzles and gimmicks, but the game does a great job of gradually introducing mechanics so the player is never overwhelmed.
The game has a number of ways of dealing with enemies, and you’ll have to figure out for yourself what works best against each kind. The default attack is for your herd of Kirbys to pile themselves on top of an enemy like a pile of deadly pink cotton-candy blobs, but some enemies are protected, or even covered in spikes.
The Kirbys will have to attach themselves to the enemy’s weak points to bring it down, but figuring out what to use against what enemy is just part of the fun. The same goes for bosses. Each one must be defeated in different ways, and even if you lose a few times, you’ll have great fun figuring it all out.
The levels themselves work much the same way as the gameplay: simple on the surface, but deeper than they look. If all you want to do is finish a level, you can do that in record time as it’s not difficult.
However, the stages are peppered with out-of-the-way areas filled with collectables that unlock extra content. There are special rewards such as gold stars for getting though levels undamaged, which is almost an entirely different game from normal play and quite the challenge. The medallions that are collectible in each level go towards unlocking extra content in the form of a cutscene viewer, a soundboard, and some surprisingly engaging minigames.
They range from an RPG-style turn based battle game to a cartoony shoot-‘em-up to Kirby-themed pinball. This gives the game quite a good replay value, and gives the player new challenges to look forward to for a good long time. The minigames are almost entertaining enough on their own to be a separate game, if there were more of them. Now there’s an idea: Kirby-themed WarioWare, anyone?
The pinball is particularly fun and is its own self-contained game complete with bosses. There’s one thing, too, which may be small but was a great pleasure to see: the game has underwater sections that aren’t terrible. They’re actually fun. How strange is that? Every other water section I’ve played has been an inconvenient, badly-controlled drag. This one controls exactly like it does outside the water except you’ve got to keep your eye on the air supply. The Kirby horde can even attack while underwater unlike just about every other side-scroller ever. That alone is enough to make me love it. Finally, a game publisher that gets it!