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Kirby: Canvas Curse

Review posted September 2005 by Tony Peak

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Release Date: June, 2005
ESRB Rating: "E" for Everyone
Genre: Action/Touch Platformer
Price: $34.99

Kirby has made quite a name for himself over the years with Nintendo fans, and for good reason. Though the little pink ball would seem an odd choice for a fan favorite character, Kirby's followers proclaim the fun and challenge of his adventures, now stretching more than a dozen years across multiple Nintendo systems. Although many are probably most familiar with the NES title Kirby's Adventure, his first appearance was actually a year earlier on the original GameBoy platform in '92.

Kirby's most successful titles have usually been of the platformer genre that started Kirby's adventures. Although Kirby has taken on several other genres, such as Kirby Air Ride, Kirby's Dream Course, Kirby's Pinball Land and etc, more often than not these side ventures turn out to be rather gimmicky at best. While Canvas Curse is indeed a platformer of sorts, Nintendo decided to throw in a trick. Rather than control Kirby normally, he's now a ball and you'll be using rainbow lines drawn by the DS stylus to maneuver the puffball around. If it reminds you of Kirby Tilt n' Tumble yet, you may not be too far off.

Gameplay

While Canvas Curse obviously doesn't use a tilt sensor or anything like Tilt n' Tumble, it does follow that "Hey, wouldn't it be neat if…" trend of thinking Nintendo and HAL seem to follow so often. Replace the words "tilt sensor" with "touch screen", and you've got the latest gimmick for the next generation. Personally, I'd prefer the solid old school platformer Kirby as seen on the GBA, such as Kirby and the Amazing Mirror.

My gripes about the genre aside, there are plenty of folks looking for something "different" who will be glad to see this unusual little title. It goes without saying if you liked Yoshi Touch and Go, you should check this out. Canvas Curse basically takes the idea of the controls behind Touch and Go and applies it toward a full Kirby platformer title. In other words, you'll be using conveyer belt like rainbow lines to guide Kirby level to level, while battling enemies and solving various minor puzzles. Various line tricks give Kirby little boosts, like ramps, loops, and even barriers from projectiles and lasers.

The entire game is played with the stylus, using no button controls at all. Tapping on an enemy stuns it, and tapping Kirby makes him spin dash or use a gained power, but almost everything else is up to use of lines. It bugs me a bit that Kirby has lost his signature sucking abilities, as well as his ability to fly… even if he is still very light and bouncy.

The lack of any direct controls can be downright annoying at times. I can get through the game and do medal runs easily enough, sure, but the subtle control just isn't really there. More often than I'd like Kirby would simply not follow my line as I expected, bounce into a wall, or face the wrong way. When you're strictly limited on time or ink, this can be quite frustrating.

That said however, Canvas Curse can still be a good deal of fun. Although things start off fairly simple and light, by the end when everything comes together things get fairly difficult. The challenge is certainly there, and after you beat the main adventure the Rainbow Run mode still has plenty of gameplay left. In this mode you'll play short courses with either a limited amount of ink, or a limited amount of time to complete your goal. These too start off fairly easy, but they'll quickly move into real challenges that'll take several tries to get through.

Graphics

Graphically, Canvas Curse is somewhat par for the course. There's nothing that really seems to take advantage of the DS's graphical abilities, as everything is simply 2D. While everything looks very well drawn and fits together seamlessly, there are really no incredible leaps of detail or effects. The enemies are pretty much the standard sprite styles we've come to expect, the platforms are often simplistic, and while the backgrounds are sometimes beautiful, they're also sometimes distractingly "abstract".

The second screen has almost no real function, and again is pretty much wasted screen space and added weight. The life meter and information could have easily been superimposed on the game play window as is the usual trend, and the simplistic map is only useful for finding medals in the adventure mode. Unfortunately, this rather takes away the actual task of finding them, and you don't even get a map in the time trials or ink modes, where it would have proved the most useful.

Sound

Sadly, the music really isn't anything too special. Most stages have a spazzy feeling to the sound that, along with the standard bleeps and clashes, really just doesn't do very much to give the game that classic Kirby feel. The right sounds are there, but it's really not a soundtrack that pulls you into the game.

Conclusion

If you're a DS owner and looking for something a little different, you'll probably find it with Kirby Canvas Curse. Collecting the medals through the Rainbow Run will keep you playing for quite some time after the somewhat short, but fun, main adventure, and there will be plenty of challenge along the way. Unless you're a collector and die hard completion-ist however, I wouldn't be surprised if getting every medal quickly becomes a task not worth pursuing.

Kirby Canvas Curse is probably the most complete experience on the DS at the moment. It combines the old school platforming / puzzle gameplay with the new school DS touch screen controls, and manages to do both in a way that's both fun and new. In the end, Canvas Curse is paving the way for the future DS games that can make use of the system's unique abilities and produce high quality games that will raise the bar for the genre, hopefully for the Kirby series as well.

 

Screen Shots:

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Playing Hints and Tips

- Playing in story mode, watch the map for medal locations.

- Playing in time attack mode, keep tapping Kirby as many times as you can to make him constantly dash, even when he's falling. Use some well placed lines and loops if needed to give him an extra speed boost and shave off a few precious seconds.

- **Slight Spoilers / Cheat** If you want an extra life point fast, unlock the 7th box down in the medal swap for an extra vitality point. The next several down starting at the 8th will unlock extra levels for the Rainbow Run. Don't waste your medals on the first set for awhile, as they're simply BGM tests and other line effects.

 

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

Cheerful, full of color, and true to the Kirby spirit. The graphics aren't the most impressive thing on their own, but when combined with the way the stylus input makes the graphics a part of the control and gameplay, it's pretty impressive.

Sound

There's just really not much here to make one take notice. It's a decent collection of sounds and tracks, but there's nothing exciting about it overall.

Fun Meter

The combo of an original control scheme with a full platformer base makes for quite a bit of fun. You're started off slow and work your way up to a challenge, and there's plenty of little things to break up the monotony like boss battles. The originality of the controls alone makes it a game you have to try.

Addictivity

I have to give the developers credit for a good deal of timed and ink courses in Rainbow run, as it really does expand the game drastically over the base story. However, unless you strive for 100% in all of your games I do think you'll move on after a fairly short amount of "extra" time spent after the story mode. The mini games just aren't really that catchy, and the unlockables aren't all so hot.

Total Score= 3.6 Dragons, 72.5%



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