One of the Nintendo series that I have never really explored over the years is Kirby. This isn’t for any reason other than the fact I simply haven’t really got around to it.
I picked up Wii U title Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush (known as Kirby and the Rainbow Curse elsewhere, I believe) a little while back, and just recently I thought I’d put it through its paces just to see what was going on.
So far I’m having a blast. I understand it’s not like some other Kirby games… but I also understand that there isn’t really a set “Kirby formula” in the way that some other Nintendo franchises have a distinctive way of doing things. So as such it’s an interesting one to start with… and an interesting one to take on its own merits.
Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush is a follow-up to Kirby: Power Paintbrush for Nintendo DS (aka Kirby: Canvas Curse elsewhere). It unfolds in a similar fashion to that title in that it’s not a conventional side-scrolling platform game; instead, you guide Kirby in more of an advisory capacity, making use of the Wii U GamePad’s touchscreen to draw pathways for him, poke him to make him “dash” forwards, and occasionally trigger special abilities under various circumstances.
Having not played Power Paintbrush previously, this took a lot of getting used to initially, but once you get your head around a few conventions, you can keep Kirby reasonably under control despite only being able to influence what he does.
For starters, the “rainbow ropes” you paint with the stylus move like a conveyor belt in the direction that you painted them. Using this, you can move Kirby in specific directions — including up vertical faces and “upside down” — and Kirby is intelligent enough to flip around to the “other side” of the rope if an obstacle is in his way.
Using this same knowledge, you can immediately make Kirby go a specific direction by starting to paint right where he is standing — effectively swiping “over” him. This is a good way to make him turn around quickly if he looks like rolling off an edge or into an obstacle, and in later stages and boss fights that require longer, more intricate paths to be drawn, starting his movement immediately like this is an essential skill.
Collecting a hundred stars allows Kirby to use a more powerful dash attack that is capable of breaking metal blocks, and that will bounce off walls, floors and ceilings. Using this carefully and sensibly, you can reach otherwise inaccessible areas, uncover secrets or simply get yourself out of danger.
These basic mechanics are pretty much all you need to know to get going with Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush. The individual levels are in turn split into separate areas, each of which feels like a small, self-contained puzzle where you have to make effective use of these simple techniques in order to succeed. The game starts very simply as a means of wordlessly teaching you how these moves work, and gradually increases in complexity and difficulty as it progresses; initially, it’s mostly your intellect that is being tested, but in later stages, your dexterity and ability to stay calm under pressure are also thrown into the mix somewhat.
Some variation is added throughout the game through the use of three different transformations that are triggered by finding an easel. Once again, the first time you find these, you’re given a relatively “safe” area to try the transformations’ abilities out for yourself before being thrown into the level proper; this is an excellent means of teaching the player how to play, and the fact that passing through these “safe” areas effectively requires you to demonstrate your understanding in practical terms, you’ll only move on when you’re good and ready.
The first of the three transformations is a tank. Here, Kirby moves “forwards” (usually left to right) automatically, and he can fire his cannon anywhere on the screen by tapping the touchscreen. He will follow rainbow ropes in this mode, but won’t “stick” to them in the same way regular Kirby will; if an incline is too steep, he’ll just fall off it. You’ll need to take this different way of handling into account when traversing these levels!
The second of the three you encounter is a submarine. This moves to wherever you tap on the screen, and automatically fires torpedoes straight “ahead” (again, usually left to right) every few seconds. Rainbow ropes don’t affect the submarine itself because it can already go anywhere, but they do affect torpedoes. Effective use of the rainbow ropes allows you to bend shots around corners and get them to hit things that would otherwise be impossible to reach.
The third and final one you encounter is a rocket. This moves through the air at a constant rate, though it can be slowed by pressing and holding on it, and its direction changed by using the rainbow ropes. The front of the rocket is armoured and can defeat enemies simply by crashing into them; get hit elsewhere, however, and Kirby will take damage.
So far I’m about halfway through the game and these transformations have been used pretty sparingly — they each had their own dedicated level where they were introduced, and so far I’ve had a second level that incorporated a tank for part of its duration. The rest of the game sees you controlling Kirby under various circumstances — though there’s a huge amount of variation between stages, ranging from underground ruins filled with puzzles to perilous pathways high up in the air where you’ll have to make sure Kirby doesn’t fall to his doom!
Thus far the game has moved at a good pace. I feel like it’s been gradually increasing in difficulty at a good rate, and it’s taking a similar approach to more recent Super Mario games in terms of introducing new situations you’ll have to deal with. Typically, you’ll see a particular situation just once before it’s left behind for a good long while, perhaps forever, so you always feel like you’re moving forward and learning new things, even if the basic mechanics themselves don’t change at all.
I’m having a good time so far, then! And yes, I know I haven’t mentioned the absolutely gorgeous aesthetic as yet… but I’ve got to save something for next time, now, haven’t I?
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Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.
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