Some great ancillary components can’t compensate for irritating controls and lackluster gameplay in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. The stylus, drawing-based method of maneuvering through the environment is awkward and generally tedious. This is a shame since the level design and variety in structure is quite enjoyable. The music and look to the game is pleasant and delightful as well. This is an example of how a great combination of supporting components can be bogged down by a frustrating control scheme.
Unlike your standard Kirby platformer, Rainbow Curse follows up on 2005’s Kirby: Canvas Curse in terms of controls and gameplay. With the WiiU’s stylus you will draw platforms and various lines to move through the stage. Tapping on Kirby will make him rush forwards (your main attack). While collecting enough stars will allow you to transform into a larger, more powerful version for a limited time. You will spend the majority of your time creating ramps and pathways for Kirby to roll along and the constant wrangling of his movement really kills any fun to be had.
This control scheme causes Rainbow Curse to lose a lot of its appeal. The entirety of it is momentum based. Kirby will only roll in the direction he started until he hits a wall. Keeping Kirby moving straight and where you need to go is difficult for the entire game. You must dodge enemies, and roll through small pathways before you run out of “paint” for your stylus’s “brush”. Moments where Kirby grows in size and power should have been great but his increased speed just made it that much more difficult to properly navigate. Most infuriating were stages where the edges are instant-kills. I felt as if I were constantly just about to drop the character or fling him in the wrong direction. Even after playing through the game I still felt like I didn’t fully understand how to best herd this rolling ball around the world.
The game uses its paint brush mechanic in some interesting ways but the stages lack a good deal of variation. For example, several stages have Kirby sitting in a gondola-like contraption as you draw new cables and paths for him to follow. There are four stages to each world which causes the game to end up being quite short (an easy to ignore issue when you factor in the $40 budget price tag). One of these stages will transform Kirby into a different form - rocketship, submarine, tank, etc. - and mix up the gameplay a bit (but maintaining the awkward controls). The final stage will be a single boss fight leaving only two core levels per world to go through. Short on content already, its a bummer still when you notice that a few of the boss fights are repeats of earlier, easier versions. There isn’t a great deal of content despite some interesting ideas to begin with.
By far the most pleasing aspect of the game is its presentation. The visual layout is entirely clay based. Everything in the world is made of this and works into the mechanics. Kirby can get flattened when hitting a wall too fast and you can break through specific obstacles as if you were pushing through the putty. Even Kirby’s transformations having him being squeezed and molded as he changes. Along with this, the music is really great the whole way through. Many core Kirby songs return with new life and mixes. Several of the worlds’ themes I found quite enjoyable. Often I sat at the menu/pause screen just having the music play in the background. Rainbow Curse has a nice look and sound to it.
A minor pleasantry was the collectables throughout the game. Finding the five treasure chests in each stage was far too easy but often unlocked worthwhile bonuses. The best unlocks are figurines of the various characters and enemies you will encounter. Partnered with these are short descriptions that were often incredibly funny or witty. It was shocking to me to see such tongue-in-cheek recaps from a Nintendo game. Drills talking about broken hearts to blade-enemies being worried about interventions were just some of the bizarre but definitely appreciated inclusions. The smart use of these really made me excited each time I found a new treasure chest and actually want to try and collect everything.
Overall, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a good looking and sounding game that just isn’t much fun to play. Controlling your character is constantly annoying and often sucks out most of the enjoyment. The stages are nicely laid out with interesting uses of the paint brush controls but they aren’t pushed far enough to really shine due to the limited number of stages. There are some great ancillary pieces here that unfortunately get overshadowed by the underwhelming gameplay.