by Jason Clement
previewed on NDS
More Power In Numbers
It seems as if almost every other Kirby game has been an "experimental" type of game instead of the normal platforming and inhaling enemies that Kirby is known for. He has been the subject of his own minigolf game, Tetris clone, pinball game, tilt 'n tumble adventure, and more over the years. Now, in Kirby Mass Attack, the little pink guy has been split up into ten different versions of himself, and he's on a quest to put himself back together again.
Granted, this isn't an entirely new concept for the series. Back in 2004, Kirby was split into four versions of himself by a dark version of Meta Knight in Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, a gameplay concept that served the title well by introducing multiplayer co-op (for up to 4 people) for the first time in the series. However, unlike Amazing Mirror, Kirby Mass Attack doesn't have multiplayer. Instead, you'll command Kirby and his nine copies via the touch screen in a style somewhat reminiscent of the control scheme in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. You can grab an individual Kirby and flick him across the screen or at a target with ease, tap and hold on the touch screen to have Kirby follow the stylus to that area, or hold on the touch screen to amass the Kirbys into one giant crowd. They're more powerful this way, but the downside to this is that the group moves a lot slower and is more cumbersome.
There's No "I" In Team
At the start of each world, you'll begin with just one lone Kirby, but as you progress, you'll accumulate more and more of them. This is accomplished through eating the various fruit scattered among the level; the more you eat, the more Kirbys will appear and join you. As such, there are certain points in each world where you'll need a minimum number of Kirbys to proceed, and, of course, plenty of secret areas to access as well. For the combat, you'll use the different Kirbys to defeat enemies, flinging them towards their foes as they pummel them into submission, similar to the Pikmin attack in both Pikmin games. There is even a special item that will make Kirby and his compatriots gigantic (and invincible) for a short time a la New Super Mario Bros.
One interesting gameplay aspect that the game explores is the use of weight. By gathering your small army of Kirbys together, you'll be able to manipulate different objects depending on the size and strength of your small army. There are quite a few quicktime events here as well to clear certain obstacles throughout the game, which require you to tap certain areas of the screen.
Even the boss fights are surprisingly complex, in which you will have to manage your team of Kirbys and work out a certain tactic against each of the different bosses. You'll need to move your Kirbys around and make sure they avoid taking damage while carrying out attacks against the boss, making for some of the fastest paced action the Kirby series has seen yet. One returning boss in particular is the ever-lovable Whispy Woods, who has appeared as the first boss in nearly all of Kirby's platform games.
Plenty of Extras
Continuing a long held tradition since Kirby: Nightmare In Dreamland (in 2002), Mass Attack will have quite a few unlockables, mostly ranging from a music player to minigames and more. And just how do you go about unlocking these? A new badge system is being implemented, in which bronze medals are awarded for ensuring that each Kirby survives to the end of the level without dying, silver medals are awarded if none of the Kirbys become ghosts (which happens when they get hit twice), and gold medals are awarded when no Kirbys have been hit at all. You'll also find other different medals hidden throughout the levels that will unlock bonus content as well.
Two of the minigames that have been revealed so far are pinball and a shooting game. Older gamers will recall that Kirby got his own dedicated Pinball-themed Gameboy game (dubbed Kirby's Pinball Land) back in the '90s, and from what we've seen in the gameplay trailers, it appears that the whole game has been visually updated and is playable in its entirety here. As for the shooter minigame, it's almost a Xevious clone but with Kirby. Both of these minigames seem to have a lot more depth to them than previous Kirby minigames (such as those in the GBA Kirby titles), so it'll be nice to have something a bit more complex to play when you're taking a break from the main game.
Kirby Mass Attack is definitely shaping up to be one of the more interesting and innovative games being released this Fall. Will this be Kirby's magnum opus as well as the DS's last great game? Fortunately, you won't have to wait long to find out as you'll get to decide for yourself when it releases on September 19 in North America and October 28 in Europe.