Nearly ten years ago, Kirby: Canvas Curse graced our original Nintendo DS handhelds, showing us (once again) that Kirby games could be about things other than floating around, ingesting bugs, and vomiting stars. Canvas Curse also had the responsibility of showing that fully touch-controlled games could be worthwhile, and by most accounts, it succeeded in that endeavor.
That same gameplay hook is back with Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. Now on the larger screen of the Wii U GamePad, players will still tap Kirby to make him move and draw rainbows for him to use as platforms. What is new is the clay aesthetic, which brings to the game its own neat mechanics.
The hands-on demo at E3 did not spend any time on the story behind Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, but presumably, the titular curse is the reason Kirby once again finds himself in ball form, stripped of his usual power to eat everything. Instead, I jumped straight into gameplay.
Players have a limited bank of clay to create platforms with the stylus, and if Kirby touches one, he will follow the shape and direction of the drawn platform. The clay rainbow is a bit sticky, so Kirby can ride upside on it before launching off the end. I spent a bit of time (probably too much) just making him do loops, just for fun.
What gives Rainbow Curse a bit of a challenge are smoky, colorless areas of a level that disallow any rainbow drawing inside. They do not harm Kirby in any way, so he can travel through them, but it requires adept use of his abilities to turn him into a projectile, or keen exploration to find another way to launch him using the environment. Used well, these could inject puzzle elements into what is otherwise more action-oriented.
Speaking of the action, there are a few particularly satisfying sections that require the player to charge up Kirby's dash to get through, at which point he cascades through a sort of chain reaction, sending him bouncing around like a pinball. It had an almost Sonic-like feel to it, where speed and exploding clay are used as a reward for figuring out how to complete an objective.
Taking the idea of a malleable substance like clay, Kirby has the ability to morph into other objects. The trailer showed him as a submarine, a rocket, and a tank, but I did not get to try any of those out first hand. If it is like Canvas Curse, Kirby gains those abilities by defeating particular enemies, but at this point it is not clear if that is the case.
For the most part, we already knew what to expect from Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. Really, Nintendo could have done nothing but release the image of clay ball Kirby riding on a rainbow, and it would have been enough for fans. What little I played was as much of a delight as I had expected, and the clay aesthetic is particularly suited to the Kirby franchise.
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