Nintendo may have already released their next generation handheld with the 3DS, but the big N is still showing some love for their previous handheld, the Nintendo DS, with the release of Kirby Mass Attack. Much like how Kirby Super Star came out on the last moments of the SNES era, Kirby Mass Attack is hoping to close off the DS era on a high note. Just like other recent Kirby releases, this is a Kirby game that heads off into a different direction than your typical Kirby game. Trading in Kirby's usual inhale and power-stealing abilities, for control of up to 10 mini Kirbys.
There's a reason behind Kirby being split into 10 miniature ones, and you're shown the reason at the start of the game. Necrodeus, the leader of the Skull Gang, attacks Kirby while he's sleeping. This causes Kirby to split into 10, with each Kirby housing only a little bit of Kirby's full power, thus making them vulnerable to the Skull Gang's attack. Only one Kirby manages to escape, and so begins your journey in Kirby Mass Attack.
All is not lost for Kirby, as you can slowly regain your group back to 10. To do so, you'll need to collect various fruit located around each level in the game. After collecting enough fruit, you'll earn one extra Kirby, until you max out at 10. You'll make use of the touch controls to order your mob of Kirbys around the game. You tap the screen to tell them where to go, use the flick motion to launch Kirbys in the air, and holding your stylus in place will cause all Kirby to group into a ball that you can carry for a limited time. Tapping on enemies will also cause your Kirbys to attack.
You have no visual lifebar, but that is represented by how many Kirbys you have. Each Kirby has three phases of life. When their pink, they're healthy. They will then turn blue if taken damage, and will turn into a gray angel if hit again. They're not lost though, as you can have your Kirby's jump and grab angel Kirbys in order to bring them back to blue status. Keeping as many Kirbys alive is a key factor in the game, as you do have strength in numbers, and losing all Kirbys will cause you to restart the level. There will also be many hidden pathways that can only be accessed if you have a certain amount of Kirbys present. Various healing spots are located at points in each level that you can make use of to bring all Kirbys back to full health.
The controls are simple to learn, and you'll soon find it easy to traverse all the obstacles in your way. The levels in the game are varied enough, and there are great levels to play through. However, it can tend to feel repetitive, due to the limited abilities that you can do. Everything will be a bit routine in how the obstacles and enemies are placed. But you'll slowly get over it once you reach those levels that offer something different to the table. There's also the boss fights which were fun to play through. Like past Kirby games, there's a pattern to follow in order to stay alive and to eventually put the boss down. These boss battles can be a bit challenging too, as they will test your Kirby management abilities.
One thing I found a little nerving with the control system is the flicking. It's a similar complaint that many probably had in Rhythm Heaven. It can be a bit unresponsive at times, especially when you're trying to flick numerous Kirbys in the air to attack an enemy. It's not hard to do, but when you're suddenly needing to flick quickly due to the action ramping up, it can get frustrating when your flicking isn't registering properly. You'll also encounter several moments where you may lose a Kirby because they were straggling behind. These things can be a bit frustrating, especially when you're trying to 100% the game.
The overall journey of Kirby Mass Attack isn't a very challenging one, but you'll encounter a couple levels that you may find yourself needing to do more than once. It is also encouraged to replay levels, since there are collectible medals and an achievement system. In order to get most medals, you'll need 10 Kirbys, so collecting everything is a challenge in itself.
Collecting medals will unlock several mini-games. Just like with many mini-game collections, you'll have a couple that won't resonate too well with you. But I found a majority of the mini-games in Kirby Mass Attack to be lots of fun. They range from different types of game too from pinball, shoot 'em ups, and even an RPG-like one. I was actually surprised on how well done these mini-games turned out. However, the ones I had the most fun in were the ones that required the most medals to be found in order to unlock, so some time will need to be invested before you get a chance to play the top tier of mini-games. Nevertheless, there's a good amount of replayability to be had once you've completed the main journey and have yet to discover everything in the game.
Completing the game are the charming visuals and sounds. It doesn't feature a unique artstyle like Kirby's Epic Yarn, but there's a colorful world to be found in Kirby Mass Attack. It's a suitable look for a handheld title. The music is also great, with its share of catchy tunes. I was already a fan of the music that was shown in the trailers, and it was nice to see that the game had more tunes that were just as enjoyable to listen to. You also can't forget the little sounds of each of the Kirbys as they run, attack, and even make little cries when hurt. Kirby is a charming character, and this game represents the fluffy pink hero well.
It's not a breakthrough in gameplay or anything, but Kirby Mass Attack is a well-made touch-only game. It fits right in with the Kirby world, and is charming from start to end. Kirby games aren't known for being challenging, and while Kirby Mass Attack can be a breeze to play through, you'll encounter some bumps along the way. The mini-games included add in more extra fun and you can easily spend lots of time with them alone. Like with Kirby Canvas Curse during the early days of the DS, Kirby Mass Attack is also a game that features great touch controls and is a nice little gem to feature as the book begins to close on the DS.