Art Attack Editor: There's an ice cream van outside that's handing out press copies of the new Kirby game for Nintendo DS. You wouldn't be interested in coming down and reviewing it, would you?
Us: Did you grow up on an island with no men on it or something?
And with that, we threw on something that vaguely resembled pants and sped from Jersey Village to downtown before the magic ice cream/video game carriage turned back into a pumpkin. When we got there, we were met by the awesome site of the Kirby Snack Pack and a pink frilly gift bag that really brought out the solid black ensemble we had chosen. With a delicious frozen strawberry treat in one hand, we got right down to trying out Kirby Mass Attack for the DS, and thankfully not in headsplitting 3D.
Kirby is one of the more minor Nintendo mascots. We played his original Game Boy adventure for hours at a time, but since then haven't really followed the exploits of the little puffball. Now that we've had the chance to meet up with him again, we're definitely going to have to revisit his work.
The premise of Mass Attack is that a wizard named Necrodeus (Death God, if your Latin is lacking) decides to nullify Kirby's might by splitting him into ten different parts, weakening him enough so that the Skull Gang can take over the world. Now just a fraction of his former self, Kirby embarks on a quest to recover his missing parts and stop the bad guy.
In gameplay terms, that means you get a teeny tiny Kirby to start with, but as you eat fruit you find along the way, one Kirby becomes a platoon of ten total. This is important since many obstacles can only be overcome with a certain number of Kirbies or more.
It's a truly innovative system. All controls are done with the stylus, and as a hardcore control pad advocate, even we were having a blast leading our tiny pink army around.
The best part of the game is, bar none, defeating enemies. One Kirby can take on the weakest of foes, but when it comes to angry gorillas, or giant onions, you have to pile onto the enemy and literally pummel him to death. If you ever played the original Ice Hockey on the NES, you might remember how getting into a fight would bring every little character into a massive brawl. Mass Attack recreates that most awesome feature and ups the cute factor by a thousand.
And if your enemy is too far away? You just start hurling Kirbies at him by flicking the stylist. It's like a kamikaze attack that ends with a hug!
If you enjoyed the New Super Mario Bros. on DS, you will feel right at home with the classic side-scrolling adventure that is Mass Attack. While we were happily tapping away, a Nintendo spokesman told us how Nintendo was dedicated to continuing the 2D sidescroller as an art form. Just because technology has now enabled us to produce photo-realistic 3D environments in a game, it doesn't mean that doing so is always the best way to make an enjoyable gaming experience. If games like Kirby Mass Attack and New Super Mario Bros. continue to dominate, maybe we can finally convince Nintendo to finally give us another 2D Metroid.
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That's not to say that there are no flaws in Mass Attack. Sometimes gathering your group together can be really frustrating, especially when you're trying to avoid enemies or get them in place during a forced scrolling stage. On the other hand, with practice you can sometimes split up the Kirbies so as to attack multiple paths at once and save yourself a return trip to find all the hidden medals.
Medals unlock a variety of features, mostly little mini-games. Thus far, we've tried a few out as we unlocked them, and then just gone back to the main game after a couple of rounds. Honestly, we think that's the way the designers intended it to be. They form a quick break for the player before heading back to the quest, and by not making you do them they don't get annoying.
A game like Kirby Mass Attack is just good for the soul. It's an innocent romp through a brightly colored dreamland. No pretenses, no blood, just the kind of engaging whimsy that made video games great in the first place. We dare you to launch ten tiny Kirbies at Spider and watch them beat on him until he turns into bananas and not smile.
Kirby Mass Attack is out today.