When gamers first heard that Nintendo’s new handheld would feature two lcd screens, with the bottom screen being touch-sensitive, most didn’t know what to expect. Now that the Nintendo DS has been launched worldwide, gamers are starting to understand Nintendo’s new vision for games, and that vision is anything but orthodox. With a growing collection of quirky, fresh titles, the Nintendo DS is quickly earning a reputation as the default platform for creative developers tired of rehashes and sequels. Unfortunately, many of those quirky titles also suffer from a lack of depth, leaving some gamers hungry for meatier titles to go along with the new gameplay mechanics. Fortunately for DS owners, Kirby’s Canvas Curse proves that unique gameplay can coexist within complex and varied game worlds to create addictive and fun titles.
In Kirby’s Canvas Curse, Nintendo’s pink puff has been stripped of his arms and legs by a magic spell, and what remains of our hero (a round pink ball) must be guided using the DS stylus around whimsical, imaginative worlds in order to regain his extremities and rid the world of the evil doers and their dark magic. Along the way, players will traverse worlds filled with traditional obstacles such as water and lava, as well as battle enemies which hurl fire and spears at our helpless round hero. The unique gameplay mechanics also provide for new types of puzzles and obstacles, such as force fields that prevent the player from drawing new paths for Kirby.
Controls: Kirby’s Canvas Curse is really the type of game that can be used to show skeptical gamers how the touchscreen can fundamentally alter gaming as we know it and provide for new and interesting gameplay. Gamers guide Kirby throughout his adventure by using the stylus to either tap Kirby forward or draw rainbow paths that Kirby then follows. This means that gamers can guide Kirby just about anywhere on the screen by simply drawing rainbows in that direction. The rainbows can also be used to guide Kirby around enemies or to shield him from enemy attacks. The players can also touch the enemy characters with the stylus to temporarily stun them, allowing Kirby to defeat them by running into them. This deceptively simple setup allows for a wide range of options when going through a level, and it’s this freedom that makes Kirby’s Canvas Curse such an engaging title. Whether you choose to dash through a level while performing fancy loops and curls with the stylus, or whether you want to mix it up with the game’s varied enemies, you’ll have a blast guiding the pink puff.
The game also has plenty of strategies to mix in with the stun and dash gameplay. For example, creating the rainbow paths requires ink that is slowly depleted while you draw, and then slowly regenerated once you’re safely on solid ground. This means that you have to keep an eye on the ink gauge on the upper screen as your guide Kirby using the rainbow path, though the amount of ink and the rate at which it regenerates means that you will spend more time drawing rainbows than worrying about the ink. Another gameplay twist involves the abilities that Kirby receives after defeating certain enemies. For example, Kirby can gain the ability to spit fire or to perform a deadly dash after defeating specific enemies. These abilities alter the way you progress through the levels and add another fresh wrinkle to the already outstanding gameplay. After clearing a level, players have the choice of which boss character to fight. These boss fights consist of races, drawing and dash attack sequences that get progressively more difficult as you advance through the game.
Controlling Kirby takes some getting used to, mostly because there aren’t very many games out there with similar play mechanics, but there’s a tutorial that does a great job of introducing players to the controls and the different ways to move through a level. Early on, players may feel that they don’t have full control over the pink wonder’s movements, but it won’t take long before you’re flying through the levels on a magic rainbow carpet ride.
Graphics: Kirby’s Canvas Curse really demonstrates the Nintendo DS’ superior 2d capabilities when compared to the GameBoy SP. Kirby’s worlds are beautifully animated, with a rich and vibrant color palette. Of course, Kirby and the enemies are very simplistic in nature, mostly consisting of round bad guys with hoods, spiders, and other minor nuisances. Most of the danger in the game comes from environmental hazards such as bottomless pits and shifting lava pools. The rainbows you draw have a very lively look, and some of the environmental effects such as explosions or the aforementioned force fields are also very nicely animated. The level backgrounds consist of beautiful still artwork that creates a surreal environment and a very adequate canvas for the action that takes place. I oftentimes found myself admiring the meticulously drawn backgrounds, some of which reminded me of classic paintings such as Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The level themes consisted of typical video game scenery such as rolling grassy hills and dangerous lava-filled caves. Kirby’s Canvas Curse is a gorgeous title that reminds us why 2d gaming should never die.
Lasting Appeal: The game is only moderately challenging, with just the final few levels managing to temporarily stump your progress by upping the amount of enemy activity and environmental hazards around Kirby. Most gamers should be able to play through the main adventure in less than five hours. Kirby’s Canvas Curse is surprisingly deep, however. Aside from the different ways to play through a level, there are also different modes such as time trial, which has players racing through levels to beat the clock in a race for medals. These medals (which are also acquired during the main adventure) can be used to purchase unlockables such as game audio tracks. A multiplayer mode would’ve been welcome, but the game is fun and engaging enough to keep players hooked even after they’ve played through the main adventure, since collecting medals is both challenging and fun.
Kirby’s Canvas Curse is a great showpiece for the DS’ touch screen gameplay abilities. It’s a refreshing title that demonstrates how new experiences can be wrapped around classic themes to create exciting opportunities for gamers. It’s one of the best titles available on Nintendo’s new platform, and while watching videos and screens may give you an idea of what to expect, it really has to be played to be fully appreciated. The biggest complement this game can receive is that it’s an incredibly unique gaming experience and yet instantly familiar and approachable to most gamers, because it blends tried and true formulas with wickedly addictive new gameplay mechanics.