March 16, 2018
Few characters are as recognisable as one of Nintendo’s mascots. Mario, Samus, Link, Donkey Kong and that tiny little pink blob with an appetite for literally anything, Kirby. Unfortunately while iconically recognisable, Kirby has never quite managed to have a massive hit game with western audiences like the rest of his peers. Now with the Switch reinventing all of the big names it was Kirby’s turn to try something new, so enters Kirby Star Allies with a cast of new and old friends.
Trouble has come to Dreamland, shadowy hearts are falling form the sky and wreaking havoc on the colourful and adorable world. However when one of these hearts lands on the pink hero rather then turning his heart sour it grants him the ability to dish out his own heart powers and coerce his enemies to join the Dreamland cause.
After Super Mario Odyssey you would have been forgiven if you thought you’d seen the last of mystical mental duress. This time though instead of taking over your enemies directly with the power of a hat, you’ll use the power of friendship and create a team of you and three friends. While you can fly solo with some AI partners there is no denying that these types of titles are always much more fun with friends at your side.
The importance of keeping an entourage of different and up to date enemies is that each one will bring new and exciting skills. Kirby retains his iconic specialty and will be able to inhale enemies to steal their powers, but by keeping a team of different oddities you’ll be able to coordinate with your companions to modify your skills. Calling on the powers of your friends you’ll be able to turn your boring old sword into a flaming sword, ice sword, electric sword and so on.
Your time in Kirby Star Allies won’t be taken up with just picking which friends make you look best, in between casting for your personal chorus line you’ll also be partaking in a spot of platforming and puzzle solving. While the puzzles won’t bend your brain too much and the characters you need to solve them are almost always close at hand, it is always important to remember that a lot of Kirby titles are made with younger audiences in mind. This does mean that as an older gamer you can feel a little underwhelmed with the level design.
Kirby Star Allies makes up for its somewhat easy platforming though with the bedlam of four characters dashing around the screen. The ease with which other players can jump in and out of your game means that someone can pop in for a long stay or a short one. At the same time if you are looking for a little alone time the games AI won’t leave you high and dry, watching your back and jumping at the chance to do their part in puzzle solving.
“…while I was lining up to replace one of the Heathers they leapt into action and took out their replacement.”
Unfortunately they can sometimes be a little eager to help and while I was lining up to replace one of the Heathers they leapt into action and took out their replacement. Anyone would think they were onto me? This eagerness to fight can result in a fair amount of chaos however once you make it into a boss fight and they go all out while you do your best in the crazy to not get clotheslined.
This ties into the fact that the effects on each of the characters are larger than life. From the title screen announcing combos when you first discover them to the particles coming off the multitude of elemental effects, the entire game is bright and colourful and is a rush of energy.
Kirby Star Allies also offers plenty of collectibles to find along the way, from puzzle pieces to snacks that you’ll store and then feed to injuries heroes to heal them—like a mother bird, fun. Amongst these are special characters who can only be found in hidden areas. Once or twice I did find a new friend to join my team only to find that they either felt only useful in particular situations or had an identical replacement. I found that I would unlock slightly more special team mates only to swap them out shortly after getting them as they were really just taking up space.
While there seems to be plenty put into the mix with Kirby Star Allies it does feel a little bit like you’ll be doing the same thing over and over and that the variety in levels doesn’t feel as dramatic as something like New Super Mario Bros Wii. While other platforming titles are accessible to children, they still have a skill ceiling that adults could enjoy; that skill ceiling feels like you have to duck to enter the room though with Kirby at the helm.
- Colourful and bright with lots of characters
- Great couch co-op that you can jump in and out of
- Some interesting ideas in the team-up combos
- Can feel a little too easy at times
- Screen gets very busy very quickly
- Too many characters can mean you have some that you just don't need
Kirby Star Allies definitely has an audience but unlike other mascots for Nintendo, that grew up with its player base, Kirby really feels like it is perpetually low-balling the skill level for younger players. This is not necessarily a negative as younger audiences deserve games for them but a fair amount of Kirby’s appeal comes from nostalgia. Unfortunately for those long time fans, while they may get a kick out of what the game offers they most likely won’t feel challenged by it and may find after a couple of hours that they are simply going through the standard platformer motions. So take this opportunity to introduce Kirby to the newest generation of gamers, and be ready to jump in when they need a friend.