REVIEW: Kirby’s clay adventure just rolls along

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  • Nintendo Wii U / Rated E / $39.99 / released February 2015
  • FINAL: You should TRY this game. 3 out of 5 stars

In “Kirby and the Rainbow Curse,” Nintendo’s happy pink puffball is roped into a journey to restore color to his world. A possessed artist has stolen the land’s bluest blues and greenest greens, but the artist’s living paintbrush pal has escaped to draft Kirby into the fight. In a cute twist, you do not control Kirby directly. Rather, you mimic the magic paintbrush by drawing sticky paths for Kirby to follow, using the Wii U’s signature stylus and GamePad screen.

The lines you draw eventually fade, and your paint supply is limited, so the game is about drawing clear, efficient paths to the goal. Kirby follows your lines in the direction you drew them, but he is fluid enough to change paths as you course-correct on the fly. Your lines must lead Kirby to treasures and doorways, skip around environmental death traps, and put him in position to spin-attack into enemies.

Conceptually, this is a great match for the Wii U GamePad, but “Rainbow Curse” knows that this trick is not interesting enough to sustain for very long. The game is both easy and short, which is a blessing because as the levels get more complicated, the weaknesses of the interface become more apparent. As elegant as the idea sounds, Kirby easily gets jammed into corners or turned around in the wrong direction just as you’ve run out of paint. Directing Kirby is an inexact science, which is a little odd when the input method is as precise as stylus-to-touchscreen. When you’re deep into the game’s admittedly-few hairier moments, you may just wish you could control Kirby directly and be done with it.

On the positive side, “Rainbow Curse” deserves top marks for its presentation. Everything in the game is made out of modeling clay, and it has great fun playing with that conceit. The enemies and levels feature plenty of clay rolling, stretching and color-mixing, as if they were designed by kids using Play-Doh. But here’s the other side of the coin: you play the game by drawing on the GamePad, so naturally you’re staring at that GamePad. Unfortunately, the GamePad screen looks nowhere near as nice as how the game looks as it plays out simultaneously on your television. I routinely forgot about the television screen while being engrossed in a level, only to glance up at the TV and be shocked at how good “Curse” looked. On your TV, the game looks like actual living clay structures. On the lower fidelity GamePad, “Rainbow Curse” just cannot deliver that same effect.

This is great news for anyone watching you play, of course. It’s even better news for anyone who joins in on the game’s multiplayer mode. If you have Wii Remotes, up to three players can accompany Kirby on his quest. These players do not have to draw lines to move their onscreen avatars; they are moved with traditional video game controls. Note that you cannot play through the levels with only these little guys, as a Kirby player is required.

“Kirby and the Rainbow Curse” does not overstay its welcome. The main story can be completed in five or six hours, although there are plenty of bonus puzzle rooms and hidden treasures for those who want to play further. In the end, “Kirby” can only provide middling gameplay inside of that beautiful clay wrapper, and that may be more of a “curse” than the game intended.

 This review is based on product supplied by the publisher. Image courtesy Nintendo of America.

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