Are ten Kirbys better than one?
Nintendo invited me over to spend some more time with Kirby Mass Attack, but it was the same build as E3, which still included Japanese text. As such, I recommend also reading Michael's impressions from E3.
While the Wii is getting a new traditional Kirby game, Kirby Mass Attack revives the other Kirby tradition of more experimental gameplay. In Mass Attack, Kirby has been split into 10 smaller Kirbys, but at the beginning you only start with one. Eating fruit fills a meter, and each time it reaches capacity, another Kirby is added to the group. After gaining 10 Kirbys, 10,000 bonus points are awarded for each subsequent meter refill.
In Mass Attack, you don't control Kirby directly, but instead tap on the screen where you want the Kirbys to go. Alternatively, you can fling the Kirbys to break through obstacles or lasso them and drag them along to send them to harder to reach areas. The obvious comparison is to Pikmin.
You can tap enemies to send the Kirbys attacking. Certain enemies require a certain number of Kirbys to take down, otherwise, they are shaken off like fleas. It's actually a bit disturbing seeing the mass of Kirbys ganging up and beating the enemies to a pulp like a swarm of pink locusts. It almost seemed unfair. I didn't see any of Kirby's usual power-ups, but at one point, my Kirbys simultaneously blew up to large size for a limited time where they were able to blast through otherwise unbreakable blocks (and thus access special areas).
I played through a number of environments, including terrestrial and underwater. Levels seem to be designed so that certain areas can be reached only with enough Kirbys, thanks to heavy switches or levers. The environments are bright and colorful as usual, but the music had a strange, yet intentional tinny feeling.
I also went up against Whispy Woods, though this battle was the most brutal one involving the recurrent tree boss I've played. Whispy moved up in sections and I had to fling the Kirbys at the appropriate sections while avoiding those covered in spikes. Meanwhile, I also had to avoid spikes falling from the treetop.
Kirby Mass Attack should be an interesting, if unconventional approach to the platforming genre. As one of the DS's final titles, it shows real promise in expanding what a Kirby game can achieve, assuming the gameplay mechanics continue to expand throughout the game. It can be pretty fun flinging and dragging Kirbys around the screen, and I expect later levels to require a balance of strategy and dexterity in keeping the Kirbys alive while also completing the necessary attacks. Check out the gameplay for yourself below.