Kirby reaches critical mass on the E3 showroom floor.
In this quirky, late Nintendo DS platformer, you control a horde of tiny Kirbys with your stylus on the touch screen. The levels I played in the Japanese version of the game on display were straightforward, but showed off the basics of the gameplay.
The game can be played entirely with the stylus. Touching a location on the screen directs all of the Kirbys to go in that direction. Players attack enemies by flinging individual Kirby instantiations at enemies. Much like Pikmin, the Kirbys attach themselves to and then pummel enemies and objects in the environment. I found myself rapidly flinging Kirbys and then occasionally gathering them as I played to destroy the omnipresent star blocks, grab vines, and explore. Of course, flinging your Kirby instances all over the place spreads them out and often results in them being off screen, so touching and holding a Kirby causes the Kirby’s to gather up as a group in a dog pile, a bit like the water in Fluidity for WiiWare. Once gathered up in a glowing ball, you can draw a path on the screen for the group to hover along. This allows them to float to higher platforms and climb cliffs. However, I found that the enjoyable pacing was disrupted by how slowly the Kirby-ball floated and how the action would occasionally pause momentarily after I grabbed an item.
One of the more interesting sections I played was a boss battle against a team of moles taking place in a canyon-like room. The moles would pop in and out of the sides, and I had to quickly move my swarm over to one side and fling at the moles before they retreated. After taking enough of them out, they started wearing spikey helmets, and I had to be careful to only attack those without helmets. This continued until the large boss mole appeared, who had to similarly be taken out by the tiny Kirbys.
The number of Kirby units in your swarm appears to be the key to progress through this game. Levels are unlocked based on the number of Kirbys you have, and I encountered switches for which I needed a critical mass of Kirby’s to press. As you play the game, the maximum number of Kirbys in your group grows, although it wasn’t clear to me how I increased my count while playing. Kirbys also take damage individually, turning blue when they’ve taking a fair amount of damage. If a Kirby dies, he turns into an angel and slowly floats up. If another Kirby is flinged at him, the dead Kirby is dragged back to the ground and resuscitated.
The art style was pleasing to the eye, especially on the display DSi XL, but there was nothing in particular that stood out.
Kirby Mass Attack seems to be a fairly simple game, and flicking the stylus constantly will likely get tiring during extended play. However, the premise is amusing, and the levels I tried seemed relatively imaginative, especially compared with Kirby’s last DS platformer, Squeak Squad. The game has some good ideas—I’m curious to see if and how the core mechanics are fully realized over the course of the game.