Kirby: Star Allies

The last post I published on WordPress was on 24th September, 2017. Exactly 1 week and 1 day before my girlfriend went into labour. I said to myself “I’ll still have plenty of time to write a blog, become famous and take the internet by storm, 1 witty blog post at a time.” As it turns out, I don’t have time to drink a cup of coffee in the morning before I leave for work, never mind spend my days carefully crafting hilarious gaming reviews mixed with fatherly advice.

My son is 6 months old today, which means I have survived 6 months of neutered gaming time, patiently waiting for the day my son picks up a controller and says ‘Daddy, let’s play Mario.” This means my gaming habits and choices have shifted massively from buying every PS4 blockbuster, to picking up games after they come out, favouring Switch titles that I can play in 40 minute bursts on my commute. Which leads nicely onto the Kirby: Star Allies review…

I have never particularly enjoyed Kirby games. The last Kirby game I played was the WiiU title ‘Kirby and the Rainbow Paint Brush’ in 2015. Which I hated. With a passion. The gimmicky ‘draw a line on the gamepad and the pink blob will follow it’ pissed me off to the point where it was traded in very shortly after I bought it. So imagine my surprise when I bought Kirby: Star Allies for the Switch a few days after it was released. I hadn’t followed it much in the gaming press, nor had I played the demo available on the eShop. So why did I buy it full price? Morbid curiosity I suppose, as I still cannot say that I loved the game. I was absolutely compelled to finish it though, I just do not have the words to express why.

The game goes back to standard Kirby game play. Move through the level, jumping from platform to platform, swallowing the enemies and absorbing their powers. This time around the game allows you to befriend some of the enemies, meaning you have a party of 4 taking you through the level. When playing alone, this poses some problems, as the AI isn’t smart enough to know when you want to ‘ally’ yourself with a new foe, rather than just kill them. This becomes especially frustrating when faced with some puzzles, which require certain types of allies to solve them.

Some of your allies grant bonuses to others by imbuing them with elemental powers. Every time your pals get a new buff, you are treated to a cut scene, to tell you what element they now have and that they have the buff ‘attack up’. Strangely enough, all of the buffs given result in ‘attack up’. I was waiting for some variation, but they never came, resulting in there being no reason you would ever switch them up. The action of actually getting buffed requires you to hold ‘up’. If the AI kicks in, then they will have a little heart around their head, then an elemental ally can help. However there are other team actions that are performed in the exact same way. So you may want to get a fire sword and end up being tossed across the screen.

Kirby himself is very slow moving, even when dashing. Jumping is also tedious as Kirby’s trademark floating is included. This kills any momentum you may have built up moving through the levels. As soon as you hit jump a second time, you grind to a halt and bobble along. Sometimes I would find myself hitting jump through annoyance at the slow pace, only to end up drifting along. The fact that Kirby can float means you will never fall off a platform, taking any peril out of the game play. I ended the game with 86 lives. The only time I died was when the game introduced a new mechanic (carrying a key) and it became apparent that you cannot float when holding it.

The game is extremely colourful, the character models are all well done – however the game isn’t going for photo realism so it isn’t too taxing. The music is full of jaunty tunes that match the level design, but the overall package is sickeningly sweet. It would clearly appeal to kids, but even as the biggest man child going, it was too much for me. Little dances, jigsaw collectables and trampoline mini games all rotted my teeth every time they appeared on the screen – which was a lot.

When I finished the game (which took around 8 hours), you are treated to 2 random mini games and a different way to play the main campaign again. The mini games are hitting a home run (similar to the game in Super Smash Bros) and chopping down a tree. I played both. They were fine. I never played them again. Their inclusion was a tad odd as there are no baseball players or lumberjacks in the main game, so they felt very tacked on. The alternate campaign is just playing as the ‘allies’ rather than absorbing their powers – which actually means you are playing the same campaign just with a different character model.

After all these complaints, why did I finish it? I still don’t know. Did I feel compelled to get through each stage to see if there were any new characters? (spoiler – after about 10 stages you will have seen them all). Did I want to see if the ‘story’ went anywhere? (spoiler – it doesn’t). I didn’t like it to the point that I was actively excited to trade it in for something else, yet rather than just do it, I made myself finish it. Reading back through the review, it looks like I HATED this game, but I didn’t. I didn’t like it either though. It just exists in a strange space of nothing games. Kirby should be a Nintendo big hitter yet I just don’t care that it exists. I think that makes a bigger statement than if I vehemently hated the game – I just don’t care about Kirby and never will. I have finished it, and that sad chapter of my life can be put behind me.

A very ‘nothing’ 5/10

FYI I sold Kirby and bought ‘Railway Empire’ for the PS4 which I am already enjoying far more.

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