Kirby: Planet Robobot Review (3DS)
Kirby: Planet Robobot was a blast from start to finish. The platforming, combat and level design are better than they’ve ever been in a Kirby game. The new Robobot Armor is fun to use, especially with all of the enemy abilities, though it does have some disappointing limitations. Coupled with the great use of the 3D environments on a 2D plane, Kirby: Planet Robobot has become my favorite Kirby game.
Planet Robobot is pretty light on plot. A large spider-like machine comes from space and embeds itself in Kirby’s home planet, Planet Popstar. Like a cute version of the Borg, these tech-based enemies want to integrate the entire planet into their spider mothership. It's up to Kirby to stop the army of invading Robobots from taking over his home. Outside of the game’s main villain and Susie, a robot secretary that unleashes different bossone you, there aren’t any new characters. There's hardly a story to be found but that's not a detriment to the overall experience since, outside of a couple of boss fights, the plot has no effect on gameplay.
Aesthetically Kirby's latest adventure bears a very similar art style to Kirby: Triple Deluxe, which is essentially Kirby’s Dreamland in 3D, visually. All of the 3D models and environments look great, and a lot of the levels have pretty interesting concepts. There are a few levels that place on bustling city streets where you have to be aware of traffic lights and oncoming traffic, for example. These types of stages among the other creative concepts make use of the handheld’s 3D by having the action take place in the foreground and background. Lots of levels and hazards are designed with the 3D aspect in mind, so playing with your 3D turned on is beneficial. However, turning on your 3D severely hurts the game’s performance, especially when there are multiple enemies on screen. There was significant slowdown whenever I turned 3D on to get a better sense of what was in my way and what was in the background. This is discouraging since the game makes great use of the 3D space and playing with it on does give you a significant advantage.
Robobot also has two additional modes, Team Kirby Clash and Kirby 3D Rumble. Team Kirby Clash is a boss rush style mode where you pick one of four classes and fight bosses along with AI teammates or other local players. This mode is a good way to get in a few more boss fights as most of the bosses in this mode are unique to this mode. Kirby 3D Rumble is a top-down score attack game that has you defeating enemies by sucking them up and shooting them at other enemies to keep a combo going. The point here is just to accumulate points and get high scores. These two side modes are neat little distractions; they’re really nothing more than mini-games, but good mini-games, at that.
Speaking of which, Kirby: Planet Robobot is a fairly simplistic platformer. Kirby has his classic copy ability and each one of them has its own list of abilities and attacks. Every different Kirby has an extensive list of moves which makes combat, especially boss battles, feel like a fighting game. There are five worlds (with a handful of stages each), and a boss stage at the end of each world. There are three Code Blocks you can collect in every level, and you’ll need to collect the right amount of blocks in order to open the boss door and defeat the boss to progress. I had no trouble collecting more than enough blocks in every world even without going out of my way to find them. The blocks end up feeling like checks to make sure you’re paying attention to your surroundings in every level. You’ll end up exploring as much as possible to collect cubes whenever you can. It adds a bit of challenge and I ended up appreciating the level design and how well hidden some cubes were when I was deliberately hunting them down.
In terms of design, the levels all feel great when you’re running around as Kirby. When you’re piloting the Robobot armor, lots of levels feel cramped. The Robobot armor is the big addition the Kirby formula, and it’s a lot of fun to use. The armor is a mech suit that you’ll find stationed throughout levels that you can jump into and pilot. This armor has the same copy ability as Kirby so it can absorb enemies and take their powers as well. Using all of these different forms to muscle through stages and enemies is the most fun part of piloting the armor.
Unfortunately the way levels are scaled more for Kirby’s size and not the Robobot armor limits your movement options when using the mech suit. It ends up making the armor feel like more of a key to certain switches more than a new mechanic. There are a few vehicle levels that are designed around the armor and those are good, but the armor feels restrictive in the main platforming areas. Being able to exit and enter the mech at any time would do a lot to help alleviate this issue.
The Kirby series is full of memorable characters, cute enemies and colorful levels, but it's never actually grabbed my attention. The messy level design coupled with the fact that the games are typically very easy has made me bored with the franchise, to be frank. Planet Robobot feels like a breath of fresh air in that regard. This game's fast-paced platforming and clever level concepts elevate it past any other game in the series.
This review is based on a purchased copy of Kirby: Planet Robobot for the Nintendo 3DS.