Bev Chen
10 Nov, 2011

Kirby: Mass Attack Review

DS Review | Massive fun, massive value.
It seemed for a while that gamers had forgotten Kirby; the pink puffball who is arguably Nintendo’s cutest character. Since the release of the Nintendo DS six years ago, the franchise has seen three handheld games: Canvas Curse, which made great use of the system’s touch screen function; Squeak Squad, which was a good game in its own right but paled in comparison to Canvas Curse; and Superstar Ultra, an updated version of the Super Nintendo compilation. Thankfully, the critical acclaim surrounding the Wii title Epic Yarn seems to have rekindled interest in the franchise, with another Wii title (Kirby’s Adventure) on the horizon. But what better way to get fans talking about the DS again by releasing a brand new game? Hence Kirby: Mass Attack and boy, HAL Labs has made one hell of a game.

The great thing about Kirby is that all sorts of strange things can happen to the titular protagonist and no-one will bat an eye. This time around, Necrodeous, Skull Gang boss and evil sorcerer extraordinaire, splits Kirby into ten pieces, prompting him to try and return to his original form. Yeah ok, the storylines in Kirby are usually tacked on to supplement the gameplay mechanics, but that’s usually not a problem because the gameplay is so gosh darn fun. The same goes for Mass Attack. Besides, all that players really need to get sucked into the game are the colourful graphics, crisp animations and memorable tunes. As usual, Kirby himself is adorable, evident in his character sprites and various sounds he makes. Now, multiply that by ten; thankfully, the somewhat blasphemous idea of Kirby being irritating never rears its head here.

Surprised Kirby is the most adorable Kirby.

Surprised Kirby is the most adorable Kirby.

Gameplay in Mass Attack is traditional platforming at its core, but much like Canvas Curse, only the touch screen is used. Tapping the screen directs your Kirbies (Kirbys?) to move or attack, flicking upwards causes them to jump (or attack, if the enemy is high up), and holding the stylus on a group of them attaches them to a star, allowing you to a draw a line for the group to follow. It’s an amazingly simple and intuitive control scheme and works, for the most part, extremely well. Giving you multiple Kirbies to begin with is mighty generous though, thus the game only gives you one as you begin each area. In order to strengthen your numbers (which caps at ten Kirbies), you need to eat pieces of fruit, which are rewarded for dispatching enemies and exploring levels. ‘The more the merrier’ is almost always the case in Mass Attack, as it helps you enter certain levels and secret areas and defeat enemies with more ease. On the flip side, having more Kirbies to manage means that there’s a lot more to keep your eye on. This is where players are likely to encounter frustration with the controls; for example, attempting to carry a group of Kirbies will sometimes result in a few getting left behind. Try and rescue them and the other Kirbies will follow. It also makes battling multiple enemies on one screen a bit tricky, especially if you’re tapping to target them instead of flicking.

Switch too high? Try flicking Kirby upwards.

Switch too high? Try flicking Kirby upwards.

Thankfully, these problems don’t add any fake difficulty to Mass Attack. But in spite of the idea that every Kirby game is too easy, Mass Attack manages to keep things fairly challenging. The number of Kirbies you need to enter a level for example, is usually a pretty good indicator of how difficult a level will be. Additionally, unlike Kirby’s latest outing in Epic Yarn, he/they can die in this game. The game’s quite kind about it though as if a Kirby gets hit once, they turn blue. If they get hit again, they turn grey and start flying upwards, presumably towards heaven. However, your other Kirbies can cheat them of the afterlife by grabbing him, turning him back into a blue Kirby. There are also special rings in each level that lets the player ‘restore’ their Kirbies back to a rather cheeky pink hue. Essentially, you still have plenty of opportunities to prevent seeing the dreaded game over screen. That’s not to say you’re not rewarded for being a careful player though, as your ranking at the end of each level depends on how many Kirbies took damage or were KO’d.

Perfection on each level aside, replayability in Mass Attack is enormous. HAL Labs has made sure that there is at least one secret in every stage, even if it’s just something like requiring you to have ten Kirbies to burst a balloon. Some areas need to be replayed anyway because a switch on a path you may not have taken opens up later stages. There are also lots of hidden areas, most of which tuck fruit or medals away. Collecting medals is actually a worthwhile activity in this game, as finding more unlocks a plethora of minigames. There are a couple of the mundane (a Whack-A-Mole clone, for instance), but also a reaction-based RPG adventure and even (gasp!) a surprisingly complete shmup. Achivement hounds will rejoice as well, as Mass Attack boasts a rather long list of them.

Get all the fruit, enjoy bragging rights.

Get all the fruit, enjoy bragging rights.

Kirby fans really ought to thank Epic Yarn for regenerating the franchise, otherwise we wouldn’t have this game on our shelves today. Mass Attack has all the features of an excellent DS game - innovative controls, delightful gameplay and eye-popping visual style. Without a doubt, Mass Attack a game that could have performed extremely well at the beginning of the console’s lifespan, but seeing it released near the end serves as a reminder of just how lucky we are to have the Nintendo DS and of course, how lucky we are to have Kirby. If you have a DS, buy this game.
The Score
Kirby: Mass Attack has all the features of an excellent DS game - innovative controls, delightful gameplay and eye-popping visual style. This may be one the of the last DS games, but without a doubt, it is one of the greatest. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Content

Kirby's Epic Yarn Review
10 May, 2011 A not-quite-epic yarn.
Kirby Super Star Ultra Review
30 Mar, 2009 A Kirby classic remade for the DS.
2 years ago
Hey Nintendo, AKA Publisher of the year.

Thank you, again and again, for all the amazing output this year. The gaming world would be a bleak dark place infested with guns, darkness and teenagers if it wasn't for your brilliance.

Off to buy this.
2 years ago
Wow. Was disinclined to get this as nintendo retail for a platformer seemed high compared to the available alternatives. But I'm a total achievment whore, so bring it on. At $36sih it sounds fair enough http://www.gamecafe.com.au/GamePrices.aspx?p=All&Search=kirby%20mass
2 years ago
Nintendo is weird. Kirby kinda meanders about during the GBA/GCN years, then the DS and Wii roll along and SUDDENLY KIRBY FUCKING EVERYWHERE.

Not that I'm complaining.
2 years ago
you lost me at touch screen controlls only.
2 years ago
Thank you for reminding me I need to get this. Loved Canvas Curse, and this looks just as much fun.
2 years ago
Canvas Curse was excellent. More people need to play that gem.
2 years ago
^ I'm wishing I didn't sell or trade or whatever I did with my copy. Want to play it again and I never replay games.
2 years ago
Benza wrote
you lost me at touch screen controlls only.
Honestly that was my initial reaction as well, but after playing for a while, it's clear how much thought they put into it. Considering it is a touch-based control scheme, I think it's quite accurate.
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