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Kirby: Canvas Curse (DS) artwork

Kirby: Canvas Curse (DS) review


"If you had asked me 12 months ago what I thought of Nintendo's Kirby, chances are I would have compared the little guy to an ill-formed testicle before slapping you across the back of the head. Ask me again today however and I'll happily explain how his touch screen debut is one of the most inventive, 2D action games around. "



If you had asked me 12 months ago what I thought of Nintendo's Kirby, chances are I would have compared the little guy to an ill-formed testicle before slapping you across the back of the head. Ask me again today however and I'll happily explain how his touch screen debut is one of the most inventive, 2D action games around. Look past the kiddy safe graphics and ignore the way they make you feel, Kirby: Canvas Curse is Sonic with a stylus... had the Hedgehog not been seduced by the third dimension. Its deep and enjoyable platform action was always a given, what shocked the most is how Nintendo have sought to mimic an old franchise that had all but lost its way. And while Kirby may not be as fast as Sega's own, Canvas Curse remains a classic, 2D action title in need of your attention. Now, who among you thought it possible?

Kirby: Canvas Curse - The reason you bought a Nintendo DS

Recycling what's fast becoming an over used plot device, Kirby: Canvas Curse is the usual story of a witch/wizard/magical underling run amok. Evil intentions this, chance encounter that, and before you know it, Dreamland has been transformed into a painting and Kirby a ball of pink, round flesh. All this tomfoolery though is simply a means with which to justify the use of your stylus, or as it shall be known from here on out, your magical paint brush of salvation. For you see, with Kirby now ball-shaped and exposed to inertia, players must roll him through a series of 2D stages, influencing both his speed and direction with a quick brush of the screen. Drawing a line under our hero indicates the direction in which he should move, meanwhile a curved upwards stroke in the opposite direction will turn him around. And it's this simplicity that allows players to adapt to Kirby's constant momentum, understanding the timing required to prepare the landscape ahead with a hand drawn bridge or three.

That of course is just the tip of the ice burg, and it's having spent a few minutes taking in the intricacies of movement that you'll begin to realize exactly how deep this rabbit hole goes. A quickly drawn loop powers Kirby up, allowing for a brief burst of speed at the expense of some magical ink. Watch it though! Run out of this life guiding force and your little pink ball of cuddly flesh will be temporarily vulnerable to the environment, his aforementioned continuous motion driving him towards a furnace, spike pit, or some other equally as grisly demise. Likewise combat begins easily enough, a single tap of the "brush" being all that's required of players in order to stun an approaching enemy. Badda bing, badda boom. Now guide Kirby over said goon and he'll absorb a special skill, something that's sure to come in handy when addressing the game's puzzle-like elements. And therein lies the hook...

Kirby: Canvas Curse has variety and fun out the ying yang.

With each of the 24 stages posing not only a unique challenge but also requiring players to adopt a differing mindset, you'll have to stay focused if Kirby is to survive his journey intact. A stone power up allows him to sink to the bottom of a raging, underground ocean while lighting can be used to wipe out enemies and unwanted platforms from above. The obligatory lava level then has players defeating the twin bosses with a series ice blasts as a random difficulty spike hammers its way through the roof. And though it may look like something of a children's game, Kirby: Canvas Curse is one tough nut to crack. The further you get, the more obscure each stage becomes, the more you'll begin to appreciate all the hard work that's gone into this little gem. From the smoothly animated hand drawn sprites to the rich, almost abstract tile sets, Kirby's old school stylings have neatly gelled with the DS's own brand of high-tech cool. Oh yes, this is a game world as bright and vivid as any the genre has seen before.

But then again, that much was always inevitable. The DS is a hardy machine capable of some serious visual prowess when properly utilized, and Kirby: Canvas Curse is one such taskmaster. A series of expansive stages provide ample opportunity for players to take in the sights as the numerous interactive background elements serve to both hamper and assist your overall progress. Lasers blast down from the ceiling blocking access to the next hidden coin, that is until you've swiped the beam with your brush and given Kirby a chance with which to grab the bounty. Sweet! It's the little things like that though that make the adventure what it is, who cares if you've seen it all before? Giant fans, catapulting cannons, and a series of high-speed transport tubes, they're as much a part of the genre as bottomless pits and collectable stars. Other things players can also expect to see...

All this praise for Kirby though, it feels kind of odd. Where stalwart Nintendo veterans Mario, Wario, and to a lesser extent Yoshi, have each experienced varying problems in their transition to the touch screen, Kirby: Canvas Curse feels right. It's a game first and a gimmick second, exactly what the Nintendo DS needed the most. Where other titles have tried to beat players over the head with a desire to innovate, Kirby: Canvas Curse has kept its ethos simple, and in doing so has come off all the better for it. The use of the stylus as a means of control is simply ingenious, the way its abundant variety urges you onwards however is sublime. And that's all that really matters. Who cares if those around you think you're playing a children's game? You'll be having the time of your DS-owning life... check it out!

Pros
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* Kirby: Canvas Curse sweetly melds traditional gaming with the DS's desire to invent
* Ease of control makes exploring a blast
* A useful map function is displayed on the upper screen
* The difficulty level will make Kirby a challenge for most
* Combat has been well served with a number of power-ups keeping things fresh
* The light puzzles serve to stimulate the old grey matter
* A number of interactive background elements prove fun to use
* Many of the classic Kirby tunes of old are back for more
* The 2D cartoon-esque graphics look utterly fantastic
* There's a huge variety of extras waiting to be unlocked

Cons
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* Occasional difficulty spikes hamper progress
* Kirby's childish good looks may turn some away

Rating: 9/10

midwinter's avatar
Staff review by Michael Scott (April 19, 2005)

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