Rants and raves about all the latest in video games and other forms of mindless entertainment.

June 19, 2005

Review: Kirby Canvas Curse (DS) - Curlicue to Redemption

The Nintendo DS has seen many games, and many promises, none of which have bee very enticing or promising. What Nintendo has done with Kirby: Canvas Curse is quite possibly the one gem that can forgive all of that. Canvas Curse is a reimagining of the Kirby universe, as it tracks back to the old school 2-D sweetness from years back on the SNES. The stickler with Kirby is that he's a whimsical and timeless character. When I see him turned into a shameless cash-in (Kirby's Air Ride) I cry on the inside. All I really needed was a gift wrapped Kirby game that reinvented my love for the little guy. Canvas Curse does just that for me. The fluffy marshmellow kid inhales once again to take on an evil Witch with a magic paint brush, and blah bla blah bla bla. Plain and shallow as always. Hey thats not what makes Kirby: Canvas Curse such a marvelous game though. Kirby takes up arms with a special...paint brush? Blah! Why is it that I feel like I'm describing drug induced fantasies when I begin talking about this game?

Ostensibly, Canvas Curse is skewed towards children, and younger. The aesthetics of the game don't do anything to change that, but the gameplay does. Simplistic backgrounds which look like random jottings and sketches of an office intern that were thrown together at the last minute don't really scream production values, and the 2-D visuals may be a little off-putting at first, but it takes Kirby back to his roots, which is very nostalgic and the effect is pulled off quite well too. The cutesy and bubblegummy world of Kirby is nothing new, and isn't forced upon you too hard. Apart from that, the visuals attain the goal they were shooting for, but may be something that turns people away from this game. The densely and full-bodied sprites, while bubble gummy and playful, show us that 2-D is not out, and is still very much alive.

The bulbous fruit of Canvas Curse lies in the game itself. As Kirby, you take the form of a fluffle puff ball of pink, that rolls through 24 different and unique stages. As the player, you need only the stylus to play this game, simplifying the controls. If you're think by "simple" that implies this game is easy, you'd be wrong. Canvas Curse dishes out a healthy amount of challenges. While the first 3 or 4 worlds will require little or no skill to complete, encroaching the 7th and 8th worlds will require you to make use of the stylus is many different (offensive and defensive) ways. Tap Kirby to make him dash roll, and tap enemies before he hits them and you'll kill them and snatch up their powers. Kirby, suprisingly, cannot fly in Canvas Curse. How do you propose Kirby scale large mountains or cross impassable ravines without his patented "sucking"? The answer to that question is what makes Canvas Curse one of the most innovative titles this year, and almost ever. You use the stylus to draw rainbow colour-scaled bridges, loop-de-loops, and magical curlicue escalators that Kirby uses to become airborne and reach new places to explore. The idea however is not limited to travel, you can use the paintbrush/stylus to draw bubbles of safety around Kirby, or draw impentetrable barriers in front of enemies, preventing Kirby from taking the backhand of a giant cannon or icy stalagtite. Early on you'll only be required to ink bridges and skyways for the pink bubbly friend; though in the latter stages use every tactic you have to traverse a minimal amount of square footage. Each of the 24 unique stages pose different challenges, which means good news for gamers avid about keeping games fresh.

Control is easy, and very satisfying. Kirby is in perpetual motion meaning the game is very fast paced, and as the player you'll need to be quick with the stylus and think up creative solutions on the fly. Dreamland has never felt like a better place to be. All evil run amok aside, simply going back to a previous stage to explore is just as satisfying as the first time. Be sparing with your ink, but don't be afraid to have a good time. The game is very forgiving for those who slip up. Many will find such a forgiving game welcome since getting used to using only the stylus for the many and varied abilities Kirby has is wishy washy at first, and becoming accustomed to Kirby's floaty nature is somewhat obscure. There is a learning curve, but it isn't too steep. There's a bulky amount of secrets for the curiously minded gamer, and there are mini-games to unlock, and sound bites and new colour/patternful inks to find. Kirby packs a wallop of a punch when it comes to fun. While this game is no slouch in delivering a visual Kirby masterpiece, the heart of the game is just in how fun it is.

All the fun and flurry of rainbows aside, there are a few things which could see some improvement. Boss fights are dumbed down to the level of mini-game, sullying the challenging bosses of Dreamland past. The underwater navigation is partly aggrevating with the finnicky sensitivity of the touch screen, and the second screen is used only for a map (however incredibly useful it is), meaning no real significant use for both screens. Apart from the chaff, Kirby was hailed as an innovative venture from day one, and Nintendo never let us forget that. I suppose sacrificing complexity for fun is a sacrifice some are willing to make, though others will not, but I guarantee it's worked out for the better. Where Wario, Mario and Yoshi have seen somewhat gimmicky and in some instances horrible transitions to the double screened world of the DS, Kirby translates well and Canvas Curse is one of the greatest handheld projects ever taken on, and the results are mind blowing. Innovation and fun both in the same room at the same time. The game will satisfy the many desires and playful urges of gamers everywhere, and regardless of how plain and mundane the plot and childish underpinnings are, it's a hell of a ride. Don't forget to breathe.




Anonymous Zeph said...

8.9, eh? Sweet.
This is definitely the game to own on DS. I hope Nintendo does more like this. (But not to the point of milking it with gimmiks.)

June 21, 2005 7:20 PM

Anonymous Jengo07 said...

Great review man, I will give you one more chance to be honest about ALL consoles.

I really want to like your revews, dont dissapoint me with reviews like Paper Mario 2 ever again.

June 21, 2005 7:51 PM

Blogger Adam said...

I can't promise that. I write what I feel. I don't sugar coat it. You dont' have to agree or enjoy every review I write. Life doesn't have to be that black and white. I think back to all the reviews from sites like IGN, or Gamespot and gaming mags like OPM, PSM, EGM, GMR and I remember there are reviews that I'd like to forget ever existed, and then there were others I really connected with. The world is grey, so don't be alarmed if you hate one of my reviews (ie: PM2). I wouldn't be suprised if there are people who hate it, just like I'm sure there are people who aren't suprised that I hate some of their reviews. As long as you're honest with yourself as you write, there's nothing to be ashamed of. You should remember that too.

As for Kirby, I definitely would like to see a sequel, but only one. I'd like to see some of the Boss fights redone into actual boss fights like the incredible Drawcia duel, and I'd like to see more detail. DS carts can hold up to 128 MB, so there's no reason why we can't get higher resolution backgrounds and better visual effects.

I too don't want to see this game be milked. One sequel should suffice. Innovation does not have to be followed by numerous successions.

June 22, 2005 12:12 PM


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