Kirby is one of Nintendo’s elite cache of characters that always seems to get better with age. Last year, the pink-puff ball pushed innovation with Kirby’s Epic Yarn on the Wii. This year, Kirby is showing players just how innovative he can be in Kirby Mass Attack for the DS. And, guess what? He doesn’t even need to be a whole Kirby to do it. Instead of playing with one giant pink ball with feet, gamers get one mini pink ball that can rally an additional nine Kirbys to his cause. You may not get to take on the powers of the objects you eat, but you do get one of the most enjoyable experiences to be had on the DS in 2011. Truth be told, Kirby Mass Attack is a tap happy action game and platformer that proves stylus gameplay still has some life left in it – when done right.
Taking an island vacation may sound like fun, but for Kirby, fun never lasts too long. The skull-faced villain Necrodeus, leader of the Skull Gang, shows up and splits Kirby into 10 mini Kirbys. Now, that Kirby is weakened, Necrodeus is able to zap away each mini Kirby without a hitch. Oddly enough, Necrodeus looks like one of the final bosses from the original NES Ninja Gaiden series, which could explain why he is so devilishly evil. Luckily, one Kirby gets away by following the heroic light in his heart (represented by a star). The story may sound intricate, but it is merely used as a springboard for the gameplay. Once you start playing, story is thrown out the window and forgotten, but the stylus action begins.
Kirby doesn’t gobble up objects and enemies to take their attributes. Instead, he gobbles up food for the sake of attracting more Kirbys (which are really pieces of himself) to his cause. Gamers are rewarded with an additional Kirby whenever they fill up the Kirby meter located on the top screen. You can have up to 10 pink puffs in your arsenal. Afterwards, you earn point bonuses for filling up your Kirby meter.
Gameplay is extremely versatile, yet the stylus controls every action. Each stage presents a healthy variety of action and platforming. You may need to jump on an overhead chain and pull it down to trigger a door or use your star to carry a group of Kirbys over treacherous terrain. Players can flick their stylus to make each Kirby leap or drag the stylus over a group of Kirbys to lift them us a group. Double tapping an enemy will cause your Kirbys to rush the villain with a charging attack. When you do, it looks like the Kirbys are rolling on top of your foes.
Sometimes puzzles require at least 10 Kirbys to complete. For instance, there are a few giant plants that need to be uprooted but one Kirby will be too weak to do the job alone. In this way, the game encourages backtracking. Typically, you won’t need to do all the “10” puzzles. However, once you start to see all of the unlockable content that starts to appear you will quickly become a completionist. At times, bonus items will show up on boards that you already beat so it will behoove you to go back. At least once per level, one of the stages will get a green fruit. If you go back to this board, the green fruit will fill up your Kirby meter at exponential speed. Also, each stage has a halfway point that gets unlocked the first time you beat it.
When you’ve got 10 Kirbys in your arsenal, enemies and platforms won’t be your only issue. Controlling 10 Kirbys is like controlling 10 Lemmings. They start to have a mind of their own. Also, on certain boards, like in the Sandy Canyon, if you don’t watch out for your Kirbys the quicksand will swallow them up.
If an enemy hits one of your Kirbys, he will turn blue. If that Kirby is hit again, he will turn into a ghost and start to float away like an angel. You can grab him before he floats away to save him. By the third level the action gets really hectic so sometimes you may just have to sacrifice a Kirby. At that time, you will be thankful you can go back.
Mini boss and Boss battles are just as fun and playful as the standard boards. It’s where you finally have a chance to show off Kirby’s real power. You may have to fend off a wack-a-mole type mini boss or underwater frogs with electric fishes. Once you defeat the main boss on each board, you will be stripped of your Kirby allies and have to start from scratch at the next location.
The game as a whole is about giving gamers something new and surprising each time. The visual style is always a treat, whether it be watching cartoony dizzy faces on your Kirbys or seeing them gasp for air on water boards.
Two of the best features of Mass Attack are the built in achievements and mini games. Gamers will always have incentive to play boards over again to earn badges as well as open up mini-games by collecting coins. The mini games aren’t just for show, but are full games that you can play ad nauseum. There is even a pinball game and an RPG.
Kirby Mass Attack can easily make a play for top 5 DS games released in 2011. This is the most joy I’ve ever had in playing a game that was solely stylus based. The dynamic visuals do as great a job in keeping the game fresh, as does the gameplay. This DS game is worth ever penny.