If there’s one character that Nintendo hasn’t been afraid to throw change at, it’s Kirby. We’ve seen everything from Kirby’s Pinball Land to Kirby’s Dream Golf to, well, the amazing Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and for the most part, he’s rolled through unscathed, continuing to entertain fans around the world.
Now the latest from HAL Laboratory (the series’ long-time developer) is here, and Kirby: Planet Robobot may be one of my favorite games in the franchise to date. Not only because it continues to carry on the fine tradition we’ve come to expect from the side-scrolling adventures, but also because the new wrinkles actually add quite a bit to gameplay. It’s like taking something and making it sweeter – like whipped cream on top of an apple pie.
Kirby and company find themselves fighting off a mysterious alien force that has begun taking over his planet, and he’s out to stop them at all costs. Along the way, however, he can obtain the use of a giant mech robot, a pink gladiator that can actually utilize the same abilities that Kirby could suck up and swallow, but with far different results.
No matter which way you’re going – with or without the robot – Planet Robobot plays wonderfully. It’s great bopping through a level and trying many of the classic abilities (or the quartet of new ones, including the awesome ESP), and then seeing what they can do once you hop into your mech with additional oomph. Furthermore, the boss battles are wonderful, taking a lot of elements that worked so well in previous games and upping the ante. Who knew that Whispy Woods would look so good with a metal sheen? (Is he like a Terminator now? He does call himself Clanky Woods.)
Of course, most of the game is a cakewalk, like most Kirby adventures. But no matter, there are plenty of collectibles to pick up, and there’s even some side-scrolling shooting thrown in for good measure – something we haven’t seen in a platformer since the entertaining Rayman Origins. So it’s great that it makes some form of comeback here.
For that matter, the Kirby Clash game that’s included is a useful side activity that’s great for up to four local players, pitting them against continuous bosses that live to be a nightmare. Kirby 3D Rumble isn’t nearly as deep, but it’s great to take on others in quick arena battles anyway – and I enjoyed getting the Meta Knight challenge that became available playing through the game. So it offers a lot, even more than Triple Deluxe did.
As for presentation, it doesn’t go miles beyond that last Kirby game, but it looks great in 3D, and some of the level designs are creative, straying from the usual theme of the series to go with something a bit more decorative. The sound is delightful too, with lots of “Kirby-isms” (as I call them) and a bouncy, if slightly unmemorable, musical score.
While Kirby: Planet Robobot doesn’t quite serve up the challenging dish more hardcore fans want, it’s still a terrific package loaded with fun. The Robobot adds a new dynamic to the gameplay (and will hopefully stick around for future installments); the side games are great if you’ve got local friends around; and the presentation is as colorful as ever. It’s nice to see HAL Laboratory manages to stay the course, but changes the ride just enough that we don’t mind taking it again.
But then again, it’s Kirby. He’s been diversifying for years and, ahem, sucking up to the right players.