after the great disappointment that was other M i was in the mood for something a bit comforting, so i picked up kirby: canvas curse for DS. although i’m not a huge fan of kirby games in general, they’re so genial and cute that you somehow can’t help but enjoy them on some level. the last game in the series i had finished was kirby super star for SNES, but i decided to skip over a few entries that didn’t seem to add much to the standard formula and instead play canvas curse which is notable for being entirely stylus controlled.
i wasn’t expecting too much since the game was released early in the DS’s life and the novelty of touchscreen mechanics has largely worn off since then, but i was pleasantly surprised. the game is a robust platformer, and due to the touchscreen focus the developers had to largely dispense with the typical kirby mechanics (and those of platformers in general). in their place they came up with a design centered on drawing rainbow lines that is completely solid and enjoyable. the levels have enough variety to keep you playing, and although the game is over quickly, finding the three medals in each stage and getting the best rank for the two types of trials for each stage definitely give incentive to keep playing. for a full complete the game also requires you to beat the game with four more characters who lack kirby’s copy ability (which feels underutilized anyway, no doubt as a result of the levels having to be completable without it). these four characters have slight differences to kirby’s weight and bounciness, but those modes don’t really add much to the experience. replaying stages does still somehow manage to be enjoyable, due to the fact that drawing lines with precision is such an active task. it’s not hard to get through a stage with badly drawn lines, but to get through a stage with perfectly drawn lines that send kirby exactly where you want to go instead of continually trapping him between a line and a wall (a common occurrence, as anyone who has played the game will attest) or sending him off in the wrong direction, is gratifying. so much so that it kind of made me wish that the time trial mode was more reliant on this type of skill rather than simply spamming the dash move to get to the goal, especially if collecting all the stars in the level were part of the challenge. in any case, i can’t think of many other games where the difference between just getting through the game and sailing through it with aplomb is so large that there is a distinct pleasure in executing the “elegant” solution.
although canvas curse has rocketed to the top of my list of favorite kirby games, it didn’t quite break into my top games of all time list. like DK: king of swing, canvas curse doesn’t just introduce a new game mechanic, it explores it thoroughly and continually provides twists on the central premise. just a bit more level variety and more substantial differences in the locales beyond the differences in background images would have helped a lot. still, this is definitely one of the better games i’ve played in a while, and although it’s only february this is already likely to be one of the best games i play this year.
kirby’s canvas links:
– kirbysrainbowresort.net has some great stuff on the game, including official artwork and a catalogue of all the enemies
– entry at kirby.wikia.com
– entry at wikipedia
– FAQ at gamefaqs
– sketches from HAL labs. the link to HAL labs’ official site has a lot of great canvas curse concept art.