Kirby and the Rainbow Curse Review

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Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a 2D platformer strictly speaking, but not really in a traditional sense. Instead of jumping, the player guides a rolling Kirby via rainbow-laced ropes created by a quick flick of the Wii U stylus. As such, you influence the pink puffball’s path rather than having direct control, so while there’s no jumping per se, heights are easily reached with an upward strand of technicolor. It’s a pretty novel concept, though not an untested one. Developer HAL Laboratory experimented with this type of gameplay back in 2005 with Kirby: Canvas Curse for DS, utilizing the stylus and touch screen to great affect, and even ten years later, this formula proves to be slam dunk for the Wii U with its glorified DS-like GamePad.

So, in a sense, Rainbow Curse is a direct sequel. It takes its DS predecessor’s central concept and elevates it to better capitalize on the Wii U’s capabilities. As a result, Rainbow Curse features a fun 4 co-op mode where three other players run around as bandana’d Waddle Dees, which offers a playful twist on Canvas Curse’s base formula. Unlike Ball Kirby, Waddle Dee is controlled with the D-pad and can even jump, but his mobility is greatly enhanced when atop rainbow strands. Double-tapping in a direction while riding one of Kirby’s strings allows Waddle Dee to perform a speedy spear thrust that acts as both an attack and a nifty way to gain momentum. Waddle Dee is also able to pick up Kirby and toss him around if need be. This can be both a blessing and a curse, but that all depends on how cooperative the other players are feeling, but c’mon, it’s Kirby. Is razzing the little pink guy worth it? Well, maybe a little, but regardless Rainbow Curse is a hoot in a group or even solo — you can’t really go wrong either way.

Although there’s only 20ish levels to be had, each level is centered around a certain motif that distinguishes it from the rest. For example, there’s an interesting late-game level called Kirby + Kirby where player 1 must navigate two Ball Kirbys through obstacles, often times juggling each to solve puzzles or take care of enemies, or sometimes both simultaneously. It’s a neat gimmick that only appears once, but this actually works in Rainbow Curse‘s favor. Rather than reusing these gimmicks over and over, the game instead implements them sparingly to ensure each level plays and feels different from all the others, which ultimately gives Rainbow Curse a great sense of variety.

Then there’s the game’s dazzling presentation. This might be the best looking Kirby game to date if not the best looking Wii U game out there. By purposefully dropping the frames-per-second on certain objects, Rainbow Curse nails the unmistakeable look of claymation. It’s an absolutely gorgeous touch that really captures the timelessly wholesome fun that is Kirby. In a funny way, this game feels like a response to the fantastic fabric design of Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the Wii, which was created not by HAL, but by fellow developer Good-Feel. Never one to be bested, HAL pulled out all the stops with Rainbow Curse and the game certainly benefits from their noticeable efforts.

Rainbow Curse also boasts a stellar soundtrack composed by Shogo Sakai, perhaps best known for his work on Super Smash Bros Melee, Kirby Air Ride, and Mother 3. This go around, Sakai was able to utilize instruments from his personal collection and boy can you hear the difference, especially with tracks like “Milky Way Wishes.” You can’t put a price on the finely aged twang of that wistful pedal steel guitar or gentle caress of arpeggiated piano chords, but one listen and you’ll never want to hear another version. Somehow each and every one of the game’s 100+ tracks channels this same level of thoughtfulness, and even though most are songs we’ve all heard before, Sakai’s arrangements of past Kirby tunes feel completely rejuvenated here in Rainbow Curse.

Even the game’s dozens of collectibles ooze personality, going way beyond the call of duty to ensure this is the Kirbiest Kirby to ever Kirb. There’s goofy secret diary entries to be had, all those musical tracks from prior Kirby games, and even clayified trophies of every character, which are all kinds of special. It’s hard to adequately explain what makes these trophies so “special,” so instead I’ll let poor Blado here speak for himself:

WiiU_KirbyandtheRainbowCurse_blado

Don’t be Blado — talk to someone.

Believe me when I say Rainbow Curse has collectibles worth collecting.

And yet, for as wonderful as it is, I have a weird feeling about Rainbow Curse because it sort of falls victim to Dream Land 3 syndrome. “Dream Land 3,” you say. “That one that’s not Super Star?” Indeed, the very same. That forgotten SNES Kirby that time continues to forget because just forget it, right? Right?

No, no. Don’t forget it. Forgetting is bad.

As the successor to the wildly different Dream Land 2 for Game Boy, Dream Land 3 sought to further develop the ideas introduced by its portable older brother while eliciting the power of the SNES. As a result, the game introduced more animal friends for Kirby to pal around with like Nago, Pitch, and ChuChu in addition to good ol’ mainstays like Rick the Hamster from DL2. Not only that, but much like Rainbow Curse, Dream Land 3 also sports a notable emphasis on local co-op and a beautiful artisan look, allowing players to share the whole cozy Kirby experience with a friend.

That’s cool and all, but you’re probably asking yourself, “so what?” Well, in an admittedly roundabout sort of a way, I am talking about Rainbow Curse when I talk about Dream Land 3 because both games are cut from the same cloth in terms of their overall Kirbiness. Sure, they aren’t the most innovative Kirby games out there, and yes, their basic gist has been done before, but even still they’re both still incredibly slick refinements of tried and true formulas, and that makes them arguably better than their esteemed predecessors in my eyes.

And yet, people don’t seem to recognize this. Especially with Dream Land 3, people dismiss it as a lackadaisical Kirby since the fully-loaded Super Star beat it by two years, but they’re missing the point. Kirby games rarely reinvent the wheel, but that’s because they don’t have to. Instead, they capture the warmest, fuzziest, and bestest memories associated with childhood like doodling in a coloring book or sculpting Play-Doh and translate that into game form starring our positively pink protagonist. The final result is always an imaginative one, but more importantly it’s familiar, like your favorite comfort food. And that makes Rainbow Curse without a doubt a bowl of mac and cheese.

Food analogies aside, Rainbow Curse is an outstanding Wii U game that makes great use of the GamePad and looks and sounds spectacular while doing it. There’s no escaping the fact that it’s reusing a 10-year old DS concept, but sometimes old concepts are worth another stab, especially when they’re finely polished and improved upon. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse deserves a spot in your collection if not hung above your mantle as a work of art — appreciate it.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is available now for $39.99 at retail and on the Wii U eShop.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse Review
Rainbow Curse is an outstanding Wii U game that makes great use of the GamePad and looks and sounds spectacular while doing it. There's no escaping the fact that it's reusing a 10-year old DS concept, but sometimes old concepts are worth another stab, especially when they're finely polished and improved upon.
Gameplay9
Presentation9.3
Lasting Appeal8.8
Play-Doh Blado10
Pros
  • Revised Canvas Curse formula
  • Waddle Dee co-op
  • The look, the sound, the Kirbiness
Cons
  • Leaves you wanting more
9Overall Score
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About The Author

Former Co-Editor

Trace Wysaske lives somewhere in Washington, and when he isn't compulsively hunting Green Stars or felling the Lagiacrus, he's writing about everything from forlorn Japanese teachers to well-mannered crows. He still needs to play Ghost Trick.