Rating: E (Everyone)
Developer: Nintendo/HAL Laboratory, Inc.
Release Date: 06/13/2005
Ah, the joys of Kirby. Even though we still don’t know what his species is, the little pink mascot has managed to captivate gamers everywhere over the years by routinely appearing in quality games that span genres (and often create new ones). The latest offering, Kirby Canvas Curse, uses the unique properties of the Nintendo DS hardware to serve up an original platforming experience that new and old Kirby fans alike are bound to love.
Kirby’s strolling along one day in Dream Land, when he comes across an evil witch. This crazy broad’s turning the whole world into a painting, and that can’t be good; Kirby tries to stop her, but the witch flees into a portal. Kirby follows, but as soon as he enters the witch’s realm, she turns him into a ball. Our pink hero’s rather helpless…until he notices that the witch dropped her magic paintbrush. Kirby manages to roll onto the brush, and it immediately teleports into your hands. Now it’s up to you to help Kirby navigate colorful worlds and defeat the witch to save Dream Land. No princesses to save or anything, but in typical Kirby fashion, there may be more to the tale than it seems, depending on how well you do in the levels themselves…
Kirby games have always been at the forefront of the graphics world, and Canvas Curse continues this trend with some of the smoothest 2D graphics ever seen on a handheld. The top screen is used for status info and the level maps, while the touchscreen is where all of the action takes place.
As Kirby rolls around the various levels, you’ll see various expressions appear on his face whenever he takes damage, acquires a new copy ability, and so forth. The physics system has a direct effect on Kirby, too, as he’ll squish and bounce accordingly. Animation is top-notch; Kirby’s world and foes have never looked so alive. Lastly, the use of color (especially with the various rainbow trails) is among the most brilliant seen on the DS.
Aside from remixes of classic Kirby tunes, there’s loads of new music to be found here, though it’s not particularly memorable. The sound doesn’t really push the DS hardware, but the upbeat tracks fit the lighthearted mood of the game well, and the Kirby sound effects fans know and love sound extra crisp.
Canvas Curse‘s innovative platforming design and control system truly is its best feature. Canvas Curse is one of the few DS games where the stylus is used for 100% of the gameplay; the only other buttons you’ll ever touch are the power and start (pause) buttons. Otherwise, it’s all touchscreen action. Even though the levels are structured similar to past Kirby titles, there’s no running, jumping, or inhaling enemies. Instead, since Kirby’s a mere ball rolling around, you use the stylus to draw rainbow-colored paths for him to move around on. The paths function as escalators to get him to higher ground, or you can use them to block enemy fire, bring Kirby to a halt…the possibilites are limitless. Drawing a loop-de-loop will cause Kirby to speed up and tear through his enemies. That’s one way of defeating them; other ways include tapping the enemies themselves to stun them, then running into them, or tapping Kirby to make him dash through. If you defeat an enemy that has some type of power (like Beam or Missile), Kirby will automatically nab it; this is what we call a copy ability. Tapping Kirby will trigger it; if you don’t want or need the copy ability anymore, tapping its name in the lower left corner of the screen will get rid of it. Also, if you take damage, you’ll lose the ability as well. The only way to regain lost abilities is to defeat the foes that have them over again; unlike other Kirby titles, there won’t be a star bouncing around briefly for you to chase after.
There’s eight main worlds in Canvas Curse, and each one is broken up into three sub-worlds, which can be tackled in any order. After all three are cleared, it’s time to face a boss. You get to choose who you wish to fight: Kracko Jr, King DeDeDe, or Paint Roller. Each boss stage is quite unique: Kracko Jr’s is very similar to Kirby’s Block Ball, the Breakout clone where you use Kirby to smash bricks; King DeDeDe’s is a race; Paint Roller’s is a drawing contest. When you first face these bosses, they’ll be at level 1. Each time you beat them, they’ll go up a level, making them more difficult to defeat. Luckily, once you beat them, you can go back and practice their stages as often as you like.
In addition to the main game, there’s Rainbow Run, a mode for getting through stages while meeting certain criteria. Sometimes you’ll have to make it through in X amount of time, other times you’ll have a limited amount of ink to use (in the normal game, the inkwell refills automatically), etc. Beating stages in the main game automatically unlocks them for use in Rainbow Run.
You wouldn’t think so at first, but there’s actually a ton of hidden material in Canvas Curse. For example, each level has three medals for you to find, which in turn can be used to unlock extra features in the game. Many of these medals require considerable puzzle solving skills to acquire; you certainly won’t get them all on your first playthrough. You can return to any level you’ve already beaten at any time, and you’ll be doing that a lot to find all of the secrets.
Canvas Curse isn’t that tough of a game. Most gamers should have no trouble at all beating it. Finding all of the extra items and hidden secrets, though, is a bit more difficult. Rounding the game out like this really makes it accessible to fans of varying skill levels.
While Kirby games are nothing new, this particular application certainly is. You wouldn’t think that drawing lines would work for a platformer, but Canvas Curse pulls it off with style and perfect function. It’s a fantastic, original system that works without a hassle, and hopefully we’ll see more of it in years to come.
If you’re any kind of platformer fan, Canvas Curse will draw you in. Pun intended. There’s so much to do in Canvas Curse that you won’t get bored anytime soon, even after completing the main game. Plus, there’s those extra modes in case you get tired of the usual stage hopping. Those who aren’t keen on platformers may just beat the game and be done with it, but there’s still enough there to keep fans playing for long periods of time.
Nintendo’s actually been marketing Canvas Curse rather heavily, especially since it’s coming out alongside Kirby’s first DVD film, Fright to the Finish. With all of this media exposure, the game should appeal to more and more DS owners, though the bright colors and cartoony graphics will naturally draw scoffs from the “mature” gamer crowd who love their GTA. Their loss, really. Digital machismo is a horrible thing. Luckily, those clueless types aren’t the intended audience for such a well-rounded game.
Even though I hate PictoChat, Canvas Curse actually has something useful that deals with the DS’ chat system. Namely, an automatic search function. Each time you start up Canvas Curse, you have the option of activating PictoChat Search. When this is active, the DS will automatically look for PictoChat rooms while you’re playing the game. If one is found, a small icon will appear in the upper right hand corner of the touch screen. Tapping the icon will quit Canvas Curse and bring you into the chatroom. This is a feature that every DS game should have had, and hopefully we’ll see more of it in the future, especially if PictoChat gets an online upgrade.
Overall Score: 79/100
FINAL SCORE: 8.0 (GREAT!)