A gorgeous rainbow obscured by my nerdy fingers.
Kirby’s latest adventure answers the question of whether Nintendo should have included a Kinect-like device with the Wii U. Yes… yes, they should have. I imagine a much better experience playing Kirby and the Rainbow Curse where I wave my hands in the air to gesture where Kirby goes next. In my mind, it totally works.
As it stands now, the latest game to star the pink ball of clay never quite connects. The graphics are vibrant as always, and the difficulty curve—for the most part—feels right. Yet,
the main way the only way to play the game is to look down on the GamePad and use the stylus to create rainbow strings for Kirby to traverse, move, and speed him up. While doing this, your hands are always in the way, and worse, you’ll never get to appreciate the game’s amazing color palette on your lovely HDTV.
On the other hand, maybe all is not lost. Maybe Kirby and the Rainbow Curse will be “remastered” for whatever next console The Big N comes up with. And maybe that one will include being able to interact with it via your hands.
So to be clear, you’re not really controlling Kirby, so much as you're directing him where to go, but that alone is not a deal breaker. LocoRoco is still one of my favorite platformers ever. In that game, you rotate and bump a planet instead of the adorable Rocos, and the tiny Rocos just bop and spring from how you hit the left and right shoulder buttons. It worked great. Plus, in that game my fingers never got in the way of seeing the entire game screen, which is part of why Kirby and the Rainbow Curse boggles my mind.
For the most part, the Wii U incorporates the GamePad’s features well in most titles. Last year’s Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker made use of the GamePad’s built-in motion sensor to great effect. With this Kirby title, I’m not sold on the stylus-only control.
It's a shame since Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is exactly the kind of game I love to play to completion, and then replay until I've collected everything in every level. You use the stylus to draw a rainbow rope with a finite amount of rechargeable ink for the little Kirby to roll on. If you can get past the awkward controls, you’ll be trying to keep Kirby off the ground as he moves from left to right in the traditional 2D side-scroller way. In the air, there are stars to collect, walls to burst through, and so on. One of the harder moves is about blocking projectiles with hand-drawn walls, and then collecting 100 stars, which will turn Kirby into a giant bullet. Like Sega’s Sonic, keeping things zipping along is part of the fun as your race through Rainbow Curse‘s 28 stages.
Level variety is terrific. There are even a few driving stages! Most of the levels fall in line in that time-tested Nintendo way: fire areas, water ones, and even a cloud kingdom. For those who want a harder time within the rainbow-soaked Kirby universe, the challenge mode is where it’s at with 40 levels that are given an ultra-fast 45-second time limit.
Overall, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse feels perfectly at home (sans the controls) on a Nintendo system. Still, as a side note, Kirby as a series has always had a bit of an identity issue: What exactly makes a Kirby game a Kirby game, especially now that it's not always about sucking in enemies? I dug how Epic Yarn (Wii) stood apart from other platformers (at the time) by presenting environments made of wool and string. Similarly, the last two Kirby titles have embraced the claymation aesthetic. Yet, I’m not sure that either had to be Kirby games. To go back to Treasure Tracker, Toad has often been Mario’s companion that seeks gold and other valuables so his outing as the treasure tracker fits. I’m not sure Kirby can be described with a similar description. This probably isn’t much a concern for fans of the pink guy, so maybe it’s just me.
In terms of how long you’ll be playing Rainbow Curse I think most will find that it overstays its welcome. Strange that as much as I dug Treasure Tracker, its length left me wanting more since it only took about four hours to complete. Conversely, Rainbow Curse gets frustrating in its last third, though its story mode is meatier and takes about 6-8 hours to finish. The balance between quick crazy action and puzzling gets tedious, though, as the later levels just seem to go on and on. Still, this is a minor complaint compared to the stylus issue.
Bottom line: If you play only one new Nintendo platformer starring an adorable character, you should definitely pick up Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. If, however, you have time for two, then get ready to stare directly at your GamePad for Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. (Or wait for that remix version in 2020.)