Kirby and the Rainbow Curse Review (Wii U)
Nintendo has built an empire on fan-favorite mascots and strong platforming titles (among other genres), but in recent years the platformer games have been limited to the Mario and Kirby franchises. Where Mario is the straight-and-narrow platformer approach, sticking to a winning formula, Kirby is the experimental "throw things up against the wall and see what comes out" entry in Nintendo's catalog. They're Nintendo's own odd couple, and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse continues the pink puffball's reputation for being different in many ways.
The most striking difference between this and other Kirby games is instantly identified--the claymation graphics style. I've been a fan of claymation since the days of MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch, so this daring new look is right up my alley. I can't figure out how the wizards at HAL Laboratory did it, but they made Kirby and the Rainbow Curse look like it was carefully handcrafted out of clay. The entire world pops out of the screen with fantastic clay-styled color, creating one of the most unique and beautiful looks for a game I've seen in a long time.
The game also looks pretty decent on the toned-down GamePad screen, which is great because that's where I spent most of my time looking at the gameplay. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse tasks me with drawing a line of rainbow color along the screen so Kirby (who for some unknown reason has decided he wants to be a immobile sphere for this adventure) can travel along and gathering stars to power up. A few stretches of the world are completely black and white and I can't draw in there, meaning I have to tap Kirby to dash through it in order to proceed. Like the graphics scheme, this mechanic is an interesting experiment, making full use of the Wii U GamePad unlike other hot titles on the console.
These experimental choices are commendable, but like all experiments there is always a risk of an undesirable outcome. The longer I played Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, I began to tire of the line-drawing mechanic. The last time Kirby and I got together he was able to swallow a special fruit that allowed him to inhale gigantic insectoid bosses and save his home planet, and now the only way I can move him around is to draw on my GamePad or tap him so he dashes? What happened here? I can't count how many times during the adventure I pressed right on the Control Stick and D-Pad in the vain hope that he would un-roll himself and start walking like a normal Kirby adventure, but it never happened and my frustration grew.
While I truly love the claymation style, I don't get to fully enjoy it while I'm playing because I'm stuck looking at the lines I'm drawing on the screen, so even that feels a bit tarnished at the end of the game. What's the point of crafting this new and exciting visual style that few other games have ever attempted if the main mechanic of the game causes them to never be looking at the screen in the first place? I felt better served playing this game laying in bed before going to sleep; I had to use the GamePad primarily anyhow, so it didn't matter if the 1080p HD screen I was playing it on was even turned on or not. I love that Kirby tried something different with this clay look, and I hope we get to see it again at some point in a Kirby game or something else, but I hope I get to appreciate it while I'm playing instead of having to enjoy it while watching someone else.
Which brings me to my last question: why wasn't this the 3DS Kirby game and Triple Deluxe the Wii U game? I feel as if the 3DS's portability makes centering a game around touchscreen controls seem less intrusive, as the graphics output is equal on both screens if the image is mirrored, or the top-screen could then be used for something else like a timer or stage map or even a quick collectibles reference. Putting Triple Deluxe on the Wii U lets the game keep its Assist Star touch control, which acts as a complement instead of a requirement, while enhancing the visuals and perhaps creating more worlds to play through. If the claymation would only work on Wii U, I'd play Triple Deluxe in clay and Rainbow Curse with the normal Kirby style.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse was obviously an experimental platformer in every sense of the word, and while some aspects of the experiment completely succeeded (the claymation looks so good), the most important parts fell short of expectations. Controlling a game via touch isn't bad for the Wii U, but when that touch pulls me away from the 1080p HD that the Wii U offers, perhaps that touch experience would have been better served for the 3DS, which doesn't boast top-notch visuals. Drawing lines starts out fun, but eventually becomes tedious and boring once a line is broken without the stylus leaving the screen for the 40th time.
I'm all for continued experimentation in the Nintendo warehouse, especially with well-known names like Kirby and Mario. The nature of experimentation means that some ideas could falter, however, and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a prime example of not quite getting the results that I hoped for.
This review is based on a digital copy of Kirby and the Rainbow Curse provided by the publisher for Wii U.