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Kirby: Canvas Curse
Review posted September 2005 by Tony Peak
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Release Date: June, 2005
ESRB Rating: "E" for Everyone
Genre: Action/Touch Platformer
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Playing Hints and Tips
- Playing in story mode, watch the map for medal
- 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
- **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
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
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
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.
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.
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.