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What’s better than one Kirby? Ten of them! In Kirby Mass Attack for Nintendo DS, you’ll be controlling a whole herd of the little pink guys with your stylus. After the evil Necrodeus tries to defeat Kirby by splitting him into ten tiny versions of himself, Kirby goes on a quest to regroup, defeat Necrodeus, and quite literally put himself back together.
If you or your child has a 3DS, don’t worry. All DS games are compatible with the 3DS. Rated E (Comic Mischief and Mild Cartoon Violence) and aimed at ages 8 and up, this game is one that you can not only feel comfortable with your child playing, but you’ll be sure that they’ll have a lot of fun, too.
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Kirby Mass Attack is, like most other games in the Kirby series, a platforming adventure game. In this one, however, the only control is the stylus. Drawing a line lets the Kirbys float along it, and tapping the screen brings them running. Flicking one of them sends it soaring.
It’s a beautifully simple control scheme, and one especially suited for children. There are no difficult combinations to remember and no complex menus to wade through. Don’t mistake simplicity for shallowness, though.
The mechanics allow for a great range of strategies and situations and never feel clunky. Many areas have their own unique quirks that keep the control scheme from getting dull as well as a whole slew of enemies that each have to be defeated in particular ways with the cooperation of your horde of little pink marshmallows.
Unlike previous Kirby games, Kirby’s ability to eat enemies and acquire their powers is gone. This radical difference in play style makes for an entirely new experience.
Instead, players must rely on their control of the Kirby herd whether there’s one, three or ten of them. There’s always a sense of accomplishment when you solve a puzzle or work your way past an obstacle blocking the way, and the game gives you a wide array of level types to keep you from playing any one too long. There are levels with everything from shooting galleries to tanks.
When you touch the screen, every Kirby will respond to your command and this can result in an entire pile of Kirbys jumping on an enemy to destroy it and weighing down platforms with their mass. This is not to say that the control scheme is absolutely perfect.
There are some issues with inconvenient camera positions and getting the occasional Kirby stuck on a ledge or too many Kirbys obscuring your view. The camera naturally focuses on the lowest Kirby on the screen even if you’d rather it focused somewhere more convenient.
There are also times when there isn’t quite enough room on the screen to call your Kirbys. When running, you can sometimes be going too fast to see what’s ahead and run face-first into an enemy. However, the problems are mildly annoying at worst, and easy to ignore. They never become a real problem, and you’re not at any risk of a broken DS or a temper tantrum (from you or your child!). The sense of accomplishment at bypassing an obstacle is more than enough to wash these minor irritations away.
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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!
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Kirby Mass Attack continues on the long tradition of Kirby games by being a bright, colorful pixel-art world populated with bright, colorful pixel-art friends and enemies. Everything is distinct and easy to see and understand at a glance with high-contrast sprites and worlds and the background details are a delight to look at.
Despite the drag of many characters onscreen at a time, there’s no evidence of slowdown. The only problem is that, well, it looks just like every other Kirby game ever has. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it’s certainly a distinctive style, but maybe it’s time to try something slightly different after all these years?
The spritework of the original enemies from Waddle Dees to King Dedede hasn’t changed much since the days of the original gameboy. Still, there are a good amount of new enemies designed for this game along with the new art assets in the worlds and backgrounds.
The animation is smooth and pleasant. Nothing seems too low-resolution or lazily added, and Kirby himself (or maybe himselves) is a very cleanly animated, emotive character. Either way, it’s still worth looking at, and the sight of ten Kirbys dogpiling an enemy is certainly something to behold.
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The music is quite good, and surprisingly catchy. You might find yourself humming it later on, whether you’ve been playing the game yourself or just in the room with someone who was.
With not an annoying tune in the soundtrack and some truly funny sound effects for both Kirby and the world he lives in, the game is a pleasure to listen to. There are some old tunes from previous Kirby installments, some new ones, and a few remixes that combine the two into something altogether different.
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Kirby Mass Attack is a rare thing in today’s game market- bright and cartoony, cute and cheerful without being sickly sweet, and a true delight to play. It has great replay value with five themed worlds that each contain a mass of levels, puzzles and challenges, along with a slew of minigames that will keep you entertained for days.
The mechanics are sound, the controls intuitive, the graphics solid, and the music delightful. You could certainly do worse than Kirby Mass Attack, and especially now at the end of the Nintendo DS’ life it’s a gem that deserves its time to shine, whether you’re playing it on the DS or on your new 3DS.
If you’re playing it on 3DS, the graphics may seem a bit stretched, what with the larger screen, but that’s easy to overlook and doesn’t detract from the experience. The game is enough to engage children and adults alike, and definitely a title that’s worth adding to your or your child’s DS library. At only $30, it’s well worth it.
- Images via Official Nintendo Mass Attack Site, http://kirby.nintendo.com/massattack
ESRB Ratings Guide, http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp
Official Nintendo Kirby Mass Attack Site, http://kirby.nintendo.com/massattack/