Kirby’s been around the old Nintendo block about as long as any of Mario, Zelda, or Metroid. For the most part, his games have remained rather traditional, gulping air to float around freely and sucking and swallowing enemies to absorb their powers and make use of their talents. Every once in a while, developer HAL Laboratory likes to experiment with Kirby and produce a very unique game. Kirby: Mass Attack is their newest experiment and it’s quite a lot of chaotic fun.
What can you really do to Kirby that hasn’t been done before? Well, newly appointed bad guy in the Kirby universe Necrodeus has devised a cunning new way to put a pause on the pink powder puff. Using his magic wand, he split Kirby into 10 mini versions of himself and very easily defeated all but one of them. The last surviving mini Kirby managed to escape and with the help of a guiding star (you, the player), he can chow down on fruit to multiply himself back up to 10, traverse the five Popopo Islands to defeat Necrodeus, and use the wand to unify the minis back into one whole Kirby.
When you begin a new island, you only have one Kirby to work with. You’ll need to eat fruit to propagate your Kirbys if you want to get anywhere in the game. Each piece of fruit fills up a meter and once full, you’re granted a new Kirby. Levels within the Popopo Islands will require a certain number of Kirbys in order to gain access to them. Your Kirbys can sustain only one hit before they get knocked out and turn into angels, at which point you need to catch them and bring them back down to earth before they fly away.
Kirby: Mass Attack is controlled entirely by the stylus. Touching anywhere on the screen makes the Kirbys walk in the direction, while double tapping makes them run, and holding down above them makes them jump. They follow each other in single file, sometimes climbing over one another and when you get a full army of Kirbys, they can sometimes become unwieldy to control. They may not respond quickly enough to move out of the way of a fallen object, or they may get stuck behind a wall and get smushed in a Push Stage (stage that constantly moves from one direction to another). With a little practice, you can keep them out of harm’s way, but it can get frustrating at times.
You can also hold the stylus down on the screen and have the Kirbys gather on your star, and then draw a course across the screen to move your guys safely over a chasm or up a shaft to a ledge out of reach. Touching an enemy will make the Kirbys converge on them like white blood cells attacking a virus. You can also flick each Kirby at an enemy to cling to or a wall to bash. The more Kirbys you have, the easier it is to attack them, but as with maneuvering, it gets a bit hard to manage when you have a full party of 10. Sometimes you want to get all your Kirbys attached to an enemy but in the act of flicking them on, you’re inadvertently flicking them off.
One key element that’s always been handled well by games in the Kirby franchise are the boss battles. Kirby: Mass Attack has lots of mini-boss battles, end level battles, and end island battles. They are all creatively designed to make use of the game’s touch screen mechanics. They may be fun, but not all of them are exactly challenging. The real challenge of the game lies in getting perfect scores on every level by not having a single Kirby take damage.
Aside from level rankings, the player is also encouraged to scour the levels for gold medals. Some levels contain three medals, while others consist of five, but all have one rainbow medal. These rainbow medals must be collected from every level of the game in order to access the fifth and final island. Collecting medals in general ultimately unlocks bonus features in the game such as music players and mini games. These mini games are more than just simple distractions; they can serve to be addictive time killers. One such mini game is a space shooter that takes at least 10 minutes to complete on its own. To top it all off, there are also check lists that you can unlock, which are basically a list of achievements the player can complete by meeting certain objectives.
Because the DS is at the end of its life and Kirby games are simplistic in nature anyway, the visuals aren’t really all that spectacular. The artistic direction takes precedence here, filling the game with cheery colors and charming characters. Honestly, how can you look at Kirby and not smile? The animations and special effects aren’t entirely spectacular, but it’s good enough for a Kirby game. The real eye catchers in the game, though, are the fantastically designed bosses. They can get pretty big, sometimes taking up half the screen, and a few even making use of the DS’s top screen. It’s just kind of a shame, however, that with the advent of the 3DS, the project was not transferred to the new handheld. Kirby: Mass Attack could have looked much better.
Audio-wise, Kirby sounds about as good as he ever has on a handheld. His cries of joy and yelps of pain both make you feel happy and sorry for the little guy, or in this case, guys. The Kirbys sound like suction cups as they attach on to their enemies, and there’s a little nice thud as the team of clones body slam their enemies to the ground. The soundtrack is a decent one, with upbeat melodies for brightly lit stages and slow, spooky songs for the darker stages, such as the graveyards.
Kirby: Mass Attack is a prime example of a long standing franchise that isn’t afraid to take risks with its classic formula. Although not perfect, the new mechanic of controlling 10 Kirbys at once with nothing more than a stylus is good fun. There’s a lot of variety packed in the game’s many levels, and there’s also a good bit of value as well. The mini games are a blast and perfectionists will want to get gold rankings on all the stages. With the DS’s life span nearly at an end, Kirby: Mass Attack will be known as one of the last great games released for the system.
New touch screen mechanics make for a fun and unique game | Kirby's charming and cute as ever | Loads of mini games and other unlockables
Sometimes hard to keep all 10 Kirbys safe in dangerous parts of the game | Bosses are recycled at the end
Born and raised in Denver, CO in 1979, I've been playing games since I was old enough to hold a controller. I was weened on Atari, then Nintendo and Sega, and currently own just about every console and handheld made. I'm an avid hip hop fan and I love to read books. Favorite authors include Dean Koontz, Stephen Hunter, and Christopher Moore. I'm also an avid movie watcher and I try to collect as many Blu-Rays as I can.
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