The Kirby franchise is now over 22 years old, and there are 22 games starring the adorable pink puffball. I grew up with Kirby on the Gameboy, and really enjoyed the first couple of games, but as time went on, I felt like the core series became very lackluster and uninspired. With that said, there have been a couple of games that have changed up the entire formula of the gameplay, by experimenting with Kirby in odd, but interesting ways. It’s the experimental games where Kirby really shines, and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is definitely one of those games.
Leave it to Nintendo to experiment with different art styles. They certainly know what they are doing, and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is no exception. The vibrant clay filled world is absolutely breath taking. The game starts off with Kirby and Waddle Dee roaming around a clay filled dreamland, when out of the blue, a portal opens in the sky, and drains the land of its color, stopping everything in its tracks. Enter Eline, a magical paintbrush who has the power to color the world, and paint rainbow ropes that Kirby can roll on. The 3 of them set off on a journey, to rid the land of evil, and return Dreamlands colors back to normal.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a Kirby game that doesn’t suck, literally! Most of the games in the series have you sucking up enemies to gain their powers while hopping and floating around platforms; Rainbow curse relies on your artistic abilities to paint rainbow ropes and make your own platforms (minus the sucking). The mechanic is by no means original; in fact, the series has used the same mechanic before in Kirby’s Canvas Curse. With Canvas Cure being one of my favorite DS games, it didn’t take long before Rainbow Curse’s cutesy clay filled word molded around my heartstrings and roped me in.
Much like Canvas Curse, you paint with a stylus on the touch screen to create platforms to guide Kirby around, but you only have a set amount of ink for creating lines with. The ink recharges over time, but you can also fill your meter back up in an instant by finding paint bottles. You can also tap on Kirby to get him to dash and attack enemies, or you can hold down on Kirby with the sylus to transform him into a giant ball of destruction after collecting 100 stars. Although, you might want to be smart about when you use your stars, since there are tons of hidden areas that can only be accessed by the use of that power.
There are 28 stages that span across 7 worlds, which took me about 6 hours to complete, but it could take you a lot longer if you are trying to 100% the game. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse starts off fairly easy, but quickly ramps up in difficulty, which is great, since most Kirby games are a cakewalk. There are a handful of bosses throughout the game. The first 3 feel really unique, but some of the earlier bosses are reused towards the end of the game, which feels like a lack of creativity. The best part about Rainbow Curse is that each stage introduces a new idea that throws a wrench into how you complete it, giving each stage a unique feel, and layout, which keeps you on your toes. There are also a couple of stages that have Kirby transform into different vehicles, from a tank, to a submarine, and even a plane. Each vehicle has its own distinct feel, and special abilities, but can sometimes be a challenge to control properly. Nintendo also added a multiplier mode, which lets up to 3 friends join, or drop as Waddle Dee’s at anytime. The problem with this is that other players have to rely on your drawing skills to guide them across some of the levels, which can get difficult when you only have so much ink to create platforms with.
There are tons of collectables throughout the game. Each stage has 5 hidden treasure chests that unlock music, and clay statues that all come with their own silly, yet charming description. Completing stages also unlocks doors in the challenge room. Each door’s challenge has to be completed in a short amount of time to collect the prize, and each challenge continuously ramps up in difficulty. The challenges can become very frustrating, but feel really rewarding when you complete them. There are also secret journal pages to collect, which somehow make the game even more adorable.
The game’s strength is also its biggest weakness. I love the controls, and guiding Kirby through challenging puzzles and platforms is a blast, but the fact that you are playing such a beautiful game in front of the T.V without looking at it, just feels odd. I stared at my gamepad most of the time, but would occasionally look up at the T.V screen. I was saddened to see there was no way I could look at a beautifully lit HD screen perfectly suited for the games’ graphics and still play with the precision and accuracy that the GamePad provides. Instead, I would be staring at a duller, less satisfying, touch screen.
I also ran into some occurring problems with the touch screen. I am right handed, so occasionally when drawing on the left side of the screen my right pinky finger would tap the right side of the screen. Doing so caused the paint lines to be drawn all over the screen, using up all my ink, and causing me to go in a direction I didn’t intend to. Another problem I had with the touch screen was trying to draw lines next to Kirby. A number of times I tried drawing lines that were too close to Kirby, accidentally causing me to tap and hold him, using his special power, and wasting my stars.
Even though there are a number of annoyances with the Gamepad controls, I really enjoyed my time with the game. As another one of Nintendo’s experimental budget titles, the game feels like it has the appropriate amount of content for the price. I loved the ever-changing levels that weren’t afraid to introduce new gameplay elements with each stage, and the games’ ramp up in difficulty and challenge was a great change up for the series.
+ Beautiful, and charming
+ Challenging, but rewarding gameplay
+ Every stage introduces something new
– Frustrating controls
– Having to use the GamePad screen
– Reused bosses
If you are a Wii U owner who is looking for a fun, creative, and challenging platformer, then Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is for you.
Jason Betthauser is the Senior Producer at The Game Bolt. He enjoys playing through classic games on cold, snowy, Minnesota days, especially if that game is Super Metroid. Follow him on Twitter.