Everyone’s heard of Mario. A lot of non-gamers have heard of Zelda too but somehow, Kirby has remained just outside the public consciousness. It’s strange really, when you consider that Kirby games were always intended to be more accessible to non-gamers. Perhaps, armed with his magical rainbow paintbrush, Kirby will finally be able to paint his way out of Mario and Zelda’s shadows. At the very least, hopefully he’ll bring some vibrancy back to Dream Land, as Claycia has stolen all the colours for her own world and it’s up to our hero to put things right.
In previous Kirby games, you might have found yourself with access to a large number of abilities to copy, but here they’re far more regulated, as was the case in Epic Yarn. Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush picks up where the Nintendo DS’s Canvas Curse left off, with your friendly paintbrush being the main weapon in your arsenal. Throughout the game you’ll be scribbling on the Wii U’s touchpad, in order for her to create paths that Kirby can follow, once you’ve given him an encouraging nudge with the stylus. In a way it’s a bit of a shame – the game’s Claymation-style graphics look gorgeous on your TV, but you’ll spend the entire time watching on the smaller, lower-resolution, gamepad screen. You’ll still be able to glance up occasionally though and, when you do, you might be surprised at just how immersive the art style is. For example, quite early on, when you make Whispy the tree cry, it will genuinely move you.
It’s not all about the paintbrush though. Collect 100 stars and you can perform a Star Dash, which does far more damage than your basic bump. More significantly, at several points in the game you’ll encounter levels where you’ll almost exclusively be taking advantage of a new ability or, more specifically, vehicle. The first one you’ll encounter is the tank. It’s a welcome change of pace from what you’ll have been getting used to, and sees the stylus used for firing bullets – which is lucky, given the volume of enemies you’ll find yourself unstoppably moving towards.
Later on, when you get to the underwater levels, you’ll be given the chance to take the helm of a submarine. Controls-wise, it’s the exact opposite of the tank, as you’ll be firing bullets constantly, whilst your stylus chooses where you’d like to move to. It’s worth noting, that the underwater levels are actually some of the most enjoyable in the game whereas, as you’ll know, they can often be the most infuriating moments, if designed badly. Even more fun is to be had when it comes to our favourite transformation of all: the rocket. A real change in pace, literally, you’ll find yourself hurtling along at quite a speed! Fortunately, the game lets you plan your route when time is really against you, which bring a satisfying puzzle element to the gameplay, albeit a somewhat frenetic one!
Whilst the action certainly ramps up towards the end, and the final boss battle might have you pulling your hair out in frustration, the difficulty level is never too intense – as you’d expect from a Kirby game. It does offer plenty of replay value for more seasoned gamers though. Each level contains 5 treasure chests to collect, some of which will really test your abilities with your brush. Challenge sub-levels are also hidden throughout, plus there’s the chance to collect a page from your Secret Diary at the end of each stage. For those who find all that too much to handle, the game offers the option to skip a level after you’ve lost 4 lives so, even if you might not be the most advanced of gamers, you’ll still get to see everything it has to offer.
But, is it enough for Kirby to take the place alongside Mario and Zelda that many feel he deserves? Let’s hope so! It’s certainly a worthy addition to the franchise, and a great deal of fun. Whilst it never reaches the dizzying heights of an Ocarina of Time or a Mario Galaxy, it’s certainly worth your time.