This Wii U title from Hal Laboratory has been out for a couple of months in the US, under the name Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, and now it finally makes its way over here as Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush. A follow up to the 2005 DS title Kirby Power Paintbrush, also known in the US as Canvas Curse. I know, I know, the pointless name changing to suit regions is annoying, the fact that Kirby is a boy and pink means he has to be tough and seen as “well hard”, when really Kirby’s as camp as a gay pride parade in San Francisco. Which would make Kirby a queen, floating about in a high pitch squeal taking out everyone in his path with an entourage of rainbows… Still for American friends he is Kirby, repressed and angry, he might as well have a bondage outfit, but then what abilities would he have?
The predictable tale of this story is the big bad man form the sky has come and taken all the colour out of the world and left everyone sad; say ‘ahh poor things’ with me now. But thankfully some alien - or fairy type creature - with a magic paintbrush has come to Kirby to rescue the world and make it all colourful again. Basically the story is for anyone under the age of ten, and it does the job.
The game itself plays in an environment that looks like a 2D platformer, but has Kirby rolling along rainbow ropes added by the player using the touch screen on the gamepad. Kirby rolls in the direction drawn and the player must tap Kirby to attack enemies. You’ll collect stars and when you get a hundred you can transform into a mega Kirby and break through walls and fly about the screen like a wrecking ball. The basic structure is that the game’s various worlds have four levels each, with a boss fight on the fourth level. Along the way there are lives, health and power-ups as you might expect, but the game is generous enough with them that you’ll never be in danger of seeing the game over screen.
It’s a great concept, and one that worked well on the DS, but on the Wii U it’s not as harmonious. The player will mostly always be looking down at the touch screen during gameplay and as the game’s difficulty increases those relaxing moments become less common. Don’t get me wrong, the challenge is a good thing and gamers will love some of the later levels on show. But should you just be playing for fun, the early game remains easy to pick up and play for everyone. Not only that, the game also includes a skip level feature for the novices out there. There’s also a local four player drop-in, drop-out co-op mode, where the other players will control Waddle Dee in a traditional platformer style using either a Pro Controller or Wii Remote. In co-op players will be able to assist in battling enemies, collecting stars and can use Kirby’s rainbow ropes as platforms.
Graphically speaking, Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush is fantastic looking, the artwork is outstanding with many levels adopting a modelled clay, or PlayDoh-like look. The detail and small finger marks really make the game shine on a big screen. Unfortunately though you’ll be staring at the gamepad trying not to die most of the time, and the gamepad’s screen is a lower resolution that doesn’t have the same quality display necessary to show the true beauty on show. That’s not to say the gamepad is bad, but the difference in the detail lost is annoying.
Elsewhere the audio is fantastic, with some great music and really nice sound effects. The music used on the bosses was particularly enjoyable as it often provides a sinister, yet action orientated feel. The normal Kirby music that is a staple of every Kirby game is here, but not overplayed, which is a nice show of restraint.
As I mentioned, like all platformers, Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush has extra rewards and collectables to extend the gameplay and create some replay-ability. Each level will reward you with a medal dependent on the amount of stars collected, but each one also has a number of treasure chests to unlock, some are in hidden locations and others unlocked by collecting stars or solving a small puzzle on the fly. Inside these treasure chests are trophies like the ones found in SMASH.
There’s also soundtracks to unlock and Amiibo support for Kirby, King Dedede and Meta Night (still looking, must avoid eBay, must avoid eBay). These can be used once daily to give Kirby an extra ability on one level. These vary from extra health to fully charged power-ups, but as it’s a one-time use, on one level, it does feel a tad tacked on. Still I suppose something’s better than nothing.
Eat, suck, roll equals Kirby! Is the game good fun, is it fresh and challenging enough to hold your attention? In a word, yes. Does it look and sound great, yes it does, and for a budget Nintendo title there’s a lot of fun to be had. But is it perfect? No. The game does feel a bit like a DS game on a Wii U (not that I ever feel it was ever originally destined for anything else other than the Wii U). It works wonderfully and makes great use of the gamepad with its bigger screen providing genuine delight when doodling rainbow ropes to help Kirby along. Also its size means it rarely feels cramped as it might have done on a DS. The majority of levels are amazing and flow brilliantly, while one or two others are not so hot and create some frustrating trial and error situations. But these are not deal breakers and for the most part the gameplay is excellent. The biggest crime here is that it’s just a shame the player will not get to fully appreciate the beautiful art Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush provides until you pass the controller.