Kirby, Nintendo’s adorable pink puffball, is largely known for his signature digestible power-copying abilities and the relatively mild difficulty (and in some cases, none whatsoever) of his games. Nintendo, of course, has decided to create a game that doesn’t have any of that. Welcome to Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. You might want to bring some aspirin.
Let’s cut to the chase: your view of this game is going to depend entirely on how you feel about the controls. Period. The game is never especially difficult, per se. You’ve got enough health and the enemies are dopey enough that death is fairly uncommon. However, its very easy to look and feel like a complete idiot drawing lines all over the screen in a vain attempt to make Kirby do something resembling what you want. In all honesty, I found this absolutely infuriating at first and it took some time to warm up to it. Try as I might, the little jerk just will not listen until you learn how to coax him into doing so.
It’s a simple idea. You’ll draw lines on the touchscreen and Kirby will follow them to the best of his ability. You’ve got a limited amount of “ink,” and once you run out it takes a moment to recharge, so you can’t scrawl all over the place constantly. Tapping on Kirby briefly speeds him up and lets him ram into things to damage or destroy them; collecting stars throughout the levels allows you to use a charged version of this where Kirby flies off like a bullet and you steer him with curved lines.
There’s an art to this and the game doesn’t offer a whole lot of assistance, so you’ll need to learn tricks as you go. For example, drawing little loops in lines will speed Kirby up, slashing through older lines with new ones will dispel them if you need more room and holding a line out in front of Kirby allows you more slightly more direct control when you need some precision. You can do some pretty awesome things with the line mechanic when you’ve got a handle on what you’re capable of and how to do it…but that might take awhile. There’s around thirty stages so you’ve got plenty of time, at least.
This puts Rainbow Curse in the bizarre position of being a Kirby game with a significant learning curve. It’s tough at first, but you’ll feel like a million bucks when you pull off a stylish-looking maneuver. The rest of the game is almost overshadowed by the degree of investment you’ll need to make in order to master line control. There’s transformations where Kirby becomes a tank or some other vehicle, the odd boss fight here and there and a multiplayer mode if you’ve got some pals around who want to indulge in some puffball adventures. There’s also Amiibo support, but it’s limited to cheaty little power-ups that you can use once a day and isn’t anything significant.
As far as graphics go, Rainbow Curse runs into a unique issue due to the nature of how it’s played. Keep in mind this is the first full-fledged Kirby game presented in high-definition and looks great, but as you’ll use the touchscreen almost exclusively, you’re going to play the game on the Gamepad and that’s that. In multiplayer, the second player (who controls a spear-wielding Waddle Dee) can play on the TV in a more traditional experience. The Gamepad looks very nice, for what it’s worth, but it’s still a tiny screen and you’re not really getting the full HD experience playing a game on it. The claymation style used in the game seems to have been chosen with this in mind, since nearly everything consists of simple shapes and bright colors that are easy to discern on a smaller screen. Regarding sound, the music is definitely one of the game’s highlights – it consists largely of remixes of classic Kirby tunes and sounds fantastic.
In my experience, the people who are most likely to enjoy Kirby and the Rainbow Curse are actually those who don’t play a lot of video games. The core mechanic is simple enough that it’s easy to pick up on and coming in without any expectations of how Kirby is supposed to behave means they’ll have a much easier time dealing with the line mechanic. I’m tempted to say that this is the entire point, actually, as we’ve seen similar on the various portable incarnations. With that in mind I can easily recommend the pink puffball’s latest to patient gamers and those with more casual friends, family members or significant others.