of all the nintendo series, the kirby series continues to be my least favorite by a fair margin (though there was a notable exception in the form of kirby: canvas curse which i played and enjoyed early last year). it’s taken me some effort, but i finally finished another entry in the series, kirby tilt ‘n’ tumble, and overall for me it ranks the lowest among the kirby games yet.
the game deserves significant credit for being the first motion-controlled nintendo game, which was achieved by an accelerometer included inside the game cartridge. at the time it must have seemed like magic to move kirby while moving your game boy color, but now that it’s a familiar game mechanic the novelty isn’t enough to redeem the tedious and slow gameplay. it’s a bit hard to pinpoint why the game is so dull. for starters, being forced to regress back to the dimly lit GBC screen was painful (while the game does play on the bright-screened GBA SP, since the cartridge’s orientation is opposite of the GBC’s the controls are reversed, rendering the game pretty much unplayable). that’s not a fault of the GBC itself since for GB and GBC games in general you can find a good enough angle with a steady light source that it’s not too much of an issue. but in this game since you’re constantly moving the screen around, seeing the GBC’s screen becomes much more difficult than usual. adding to this frustration is one of the game’s central mechanics, which is to “pop” kirby up by quickly tilting the GBC up and back down to make him jump. this requires even more-extreme readjusting of your eyes back to where on the screen you were, leading to headaches and motion sickness even under the best of conditions.
on top of these issues i found that there’s just not that much variety in the levels or level design. the boss battles are pretty much all the same, and one of the prominent level elements is a donkey kong country-like rotating container that you have to jump out of at the right moment, and those sections were just as annoying here. the game could probably be most closely compared to super monkey ball, a game that i had actually enjoyed overall. on the surface it seems both games would receive a similar reaction since their core mechanics, tilting the world to make a ball move, are pretty much the same. perhaps that game succeeds because instead of finicky navigation through levels filled with elements that just slow you down, it instead limits its game mechanics so that you can focus on the challenge of speeding through a bite-sized level. the arcade experience of super monkey ball with its high degree of challenge gives the game a “one more try” and quick-shot appeal that balances out the precision required, whereas there’s little sense of progress or reprieve from the snail’s pace of tilt ‘n’ tumble.
the cute factor of the kirby games continues to be its biggest draw, but as this game doesn’t really introduce any new characters or surprises to the universe there’s really nothing to redeem the aggravating gameplay. i’m hopeful that yoshi’s foray into motion-controlled gaming, in yoshi topsy-turvy, fares better, and that the remaining entries in the kirby series are more worthwhile.
tilt ‘n tumble these kirby tilt ‘n’ tumble links:
– entry at wikipedia.org
– entry at kirbysrainbowresort.net, which includes scans of the manual, screenshots, and locations of all the special (red and blue) stars
– game informer included the game at #23 in its “25 best game boy games of all time” list. that page also includes a link to an entertaining commercial for the game.