Exclusive review! Kirby floats into his first original game in years, and it's a keeper.
The pink puffball is back…but now he’s also red, yellow, and green. Kirby & The Amazing Mirror is an unlikely fusion between classic Kirby action games and, believe it or not, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords. The result is a sprawling adventure game made up of small Kirby-style levels and a very cool multi-character system.
This is the first completely original Kirby game since Kirby 64, and the developers at Flagship have decided to make some changes to the series. Amazing Mirror is highly non-linear. The game is separated into nine huge “areas”, each one branching into several paths and housing numerous secret rooms. Additionally, each area is connected to at least one other area, as well as the hub world, though many of these connections must be turned on with switches. All these interconnected rooms with multiple exits can get confusing fast, but the game provides a very nice map feature to help you keep things straight. The maps are easy to read and even label exits to other areas and one-way paths. However, you have to find the map for each area before it can be used (otherwise you get a placeholder diagram of the rooms you’ve visited, which is nearly useless).
Besides the new level design philosophy, Amazing Mirror also introduces a multi-character system that sounds more complicated than it is. Basically, there are three other Kirbies roaming around the game just like you. The game simulates their positions and even shows you what abilities they currently have, but they don’t actually beat bosses or find secrets or map out new rooms. That’s all up to you. When you get to a tough spot in your own quest, or when you come across one of the puzzles that requires multiple characters, you can call in the posse with your trusty cell phone. With four Kirbies on the screen, sharing health and using various copy abilities, most enemies will go down quickly, and bosses become easier. Cell phone usage is limited by a battery meter; you can call in your friends three times before needing to recharge with battery pickups. The multi-character feature also provides for a very cool cooperative multiplayer mode. Up to four players (each one needs a copy of the game) can play the adventure simultaneously, but as with the AI-controlled partners, you don’t have to stay together. You can split up and explore faster, then call each other in with the cell phone when one of you needs help. You can even share health and lives with each other.
Of course, the basic gameplay is faithful to the Kirby series. You run, jump, and fly all over the place. Kirby’s main attack is to inhale his enemies (or their projectiles) and either swallow or spit them out at other enemies. If he swallows certain enemies, he can copy their abilities and then attack directly instead of inhaling. Amazing Mirror introduces a few new copy abilities, and they’re all very cool. Smash gives Kirby all of his moves from Super Smash Bros. Melee, which makes it one of the most versatile forms in the game. (There are a few other tie-ins with Melee, too.) Missile turns Kirby into a giant rocket that can fly anywhere and blow up almost any enemy or block. My favorite new ability is Cupid, which lets Kirby fly more freely (you don’t have to keep pressing/holding A) and shoot arrows at three different angles. Fans of Kirby 64 may be disappointed to hear that Amazing Mirror doesn’t let you combine abilities, but there are more than two dozen abilities included in the game, and most of them will prove useful at some point. More importantly, most of them are simply fun to use. Any given level can play very differently depending on what ability you start with and which ones you take or pass up along the way. Many of the alternate paths and secret rooms require specific powers (or a certain class of powers) to open, so there is a strong puzzle element to the game as well. Fans of the Wario Land series, with its ability-based puzzles and sprawling world designs, will get a very similar experience in this game.
Kirby & The Amazing Mirror is an excellent platforming/adventure game that adds significantly to this franchise. If you have friends who enjoy the Kirby series, be sure to try out the cooperative multiplayer, because the gameplay is more chaotic and yet more strategic whenever there are more than one Kirby on screen. With its all charm, highly polished design, and uncharacteristic longevity, Kirby’s newest adventure should appeal to anyone who isn’t afraid of the cuteness.