A plasticine pleasure or a clay curse?
In Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush, the little pink puffball makes his first appearance on the Nintendo Wii U console. However, this time round he is no longer a puffball, but rather a ball of clay.
The first thing that hits the player when the game starts is just how gorgeous the visual style is. With everything, from Kirby and the various creatures he encounters to the colourful backgrounds, being seemingly handcrafted from modeling clay, Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush has a unique look which simply leaps out of the screen and overwhelms the player with cuteness. Little imperfections in the modeling further accent the handcrafted nature, giving the game real personality. On a big screen TV, it is a stunning game to watch.
But watching will be all you are doing on the TV screen, as the game is played solely with the GamePad’s touchscreen, leaving the player to watch all of the gorgeous action on the slightly less impressive small screen. The reality is that the game still looks nice on the GamePad, but it is no where near as jaw-dropping. It is a shame, but the nature of the gameplay demands the use of the touchscreen and paying close attention.
Playing the game, players will find themselves not actually controlling our pink hero, but rather guiding him through multiple levels using the stylus. With a little tap, Kirby will start rolling. Another tap will give Kirby a small speed boost that will allow him to roll through any enemies that block his path. Directing Kirby through the levels is where things get fun, with the ability to draw a rainbow coloured rope that Kirby will cling to and roll along. By drawing these ropes around the level, the player can direct Kirby to gather stars or any of the other collectibles found in the levels, overcome obstacles by moving around them or blocking them, pick up speed and even change direction.
Gamers who have played a previous game of this type, where the player doesn’t have direct control of the hero, will pick up the basics fairly quickly. However, for those who have never played a similar game before, there will be a learning curve while the player comes to terms with the lack of control. Still, it doesn’t take long and the relatively low level of difficulty, at least in the early game, will see players drawing rainbow ropes in ever more complex patterns to beat the levels in no time.
The basic idea of drawing the ropes could get repetitive as it is the core mechanic of the game. However, Rainbow Paintbrush mixes things up a little with a few more ideas. Collecting stars through the levels will give Kirby the chance to activate a powerful dash that can break through the toughest obstacles and make short work of enemies. There are boss battles which require a surprising amount of skill and patience to overcome. And there are a few little gimmicks that make an appearance through the game, such as Kirby turning into a tank, submarine or rocket. They may be only little things, and some work better than others, but they do break the monotony of simply drawing lines to get through each level. The puzzle elements of the levels themselves also keep things interesting, as do the collectible treasure chests that are really tricky to find.
There is also the opportunity to play co-op locally with some friends. Here, the additional players get to play on the big screen using WiiMote controllers and control characters in a more standard manner as they help Kirby to conquer the levels. Additionally, a large collection of challenge levels are available to give the player yet more ropes to draw.
Then there are the Kirby Amiibo figures. Tapping a Kirby or friend Amiibo to the GamePad will give the player certain cheats. The different Amiibo give different cheats that last for one level and can only be used once each day. It’s a nice idea, but they don’t really bring anything essential to the game. Still, I highly doubt fans would buy Amiibo just for their in-game properties.
Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush is a beautiful little game that is really good fun to play. It is not particularly long, taking just six or so hours to run through, but there are plenty of reasons to go back and find missing collectibles. It may not be the essential purchase game that Kirby deserves on the Wii U, but it is a smaller distraction that nonetheless entertains. If nothing else, buy the game for the stunning visuals.