Kirby Mass Attack
All ten Kirbys are in it to win it, but are you?
By Emily Balistrieri
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Kirby Mass Attack is something. If that sounds luke warm it's because that is pretty much precisely the temperature of my feelings. Whenever things seemed to be taking a turn for the boring, I would either unlock a fun mini-game or there'd be some interesting quirk to a level that would recapture my attention; however, near the end, the amount of backtracking required of any player who wants to beat the game, even without getting all the extras, gets to be a little much.
But what is all this about a "mass attack?" The Japanese title for the game "Atsumete! Kirby" adds some detail: you have to "gather" your forces. Kirby gets split into ten shards of himself by the evil sorcerer Necrodius. He and his minions are into darkness, and there is definitely no room for the little pink justice puff to interfere in their plans. However, starting from one little Kirby, players can eat fruit to fill a meter that adds more Kirbys to your gang, all the way up to ten.
The controls are stylus based, which is surprisingly not quite as obnoxious as you might think. It works alright to guide your pile of Kirbys by dragging the star cursor around the screen, and the double tap to dash is effective enough to outrun enemies. In this game, though, although there is a fair bit of screen tapping, flicking the stylus is the new button mashing. Forget Kirby's old school inhalation moves—you'll be spending your time hurling Kirbys around the screen to do everything from defeating enemies to triggering switches. As the game progresses there are more scenarios where some precision is necessary—a boss with a weak area between two spikes you don't want to throw yourself into, for example—but often times it's just necessary to make sure all of your Kirbys are working together…byyyy chucking them across the screen again as the enemy flings them off or they get tired.
Whether you're surfing a star, climbing wobbling towers, or performing maneuvers reminiscent of Donkey Kong Country's barrel blasting tactics, the levels do tend to have good variation. Whether enemies are re-skinned or even just plain re-used, they are done so creatively and very much in line with the environment. That said, if you need a diversion from a tricky bit of storyline, or just feel like a change of pace, the mini-games you unlock by collecting hidden medals are deeper than you might imagine, with multiple levels and bosses in some cases. The pinball game (not the first time we've seen Kirby in such a role) and the shmup were particularly compelling in their own right.
So this gimmick of having ten Kirbys, it's not so bad. As I mentioned earlier, at the perfect time when my attention was ready to wander, something fun always seemed to pop up and keep me playing. In this way, four worlds with over ten stages apiece pass level by level. Maybe you didn't think it would be that easy.
I sort of did, but then appeared the fifth world. It wasn't enough for the dark evil cloud to swoop in menacingly, it had to come with a lock that can only be broken by rummaging through all the levels you already beat for special collectables you may have missed. This type of feat is usually reserved for perfectionists (for whom there is also plenty in this game, including the other 4/5 medals in each level, sub-games to master, and a list of Xbox Achievement-like challenges), but Kirby Mass Attack does not just want you waltzing up to the final boss.
I honestly wonder whether most people will care to finish at that point, and not even out of laziness, per se. The light story makes this easy to shelve and come back to, or play a little bit per day aside something else, but when there are so many games coming out,it might be hard for some people to warrant sinking so much time into this one cute action title.
In sum, pay attention to your mood and know what kind of gamer you are before you pick up Kirby Mass Attack. I anticipate that a high percentage of people will simply drop off after completing world four. If you won't hate yourself for that, or are a big enough Kirby fan to challenge yourself to stick with it, then I can safely recommend this game.
Developer: HAL Laboratory
System: Nintendo DS