Kirby Mass Attack

Kirby Mass Attack

Kirby games, like other former NES icons, tend to be of very high quality. They also tend to be very easy, and this combination is surprisingly tricky to achieve. There has been a trend in the games industry to create games with low levels of frustration (multiplayer games and games geared specifically for challenge such as Guitar Hero notwithstanding), the thinking is that everyone should be able to get to the end without too much hassle. As the gamer median age increases, the perceived values shift from how long a game’s content will last to how much concentration the quality content can have – we have more money than time.

This has given birth to a certain preference, a yearning for the good old days when games were hard an unforgiving – an increasing amount of people will take a game being easy as a sign of poor quality. There is some point to this as games with a lot of frustration require a lot of responsiveness so a good player can still win, but I would argue that making a good easy game is even harder. Keeping the player interested when there is no gamble requires a constant stream of inventive design to cover for the lack of challenge. Sid Meier once described gameplay as “A series of interesting choices”, making a choice interesting if neither option is fundamentally better or worse is hard.

So, my hat is off to HAL for creating good games that are still accessible Kirby Mass Attack is no exception – though this being said, it fares worse than any of Kirby’s other games of later years.

Kirby was always about stealing your opponents’ powers before the current generation. Canvas Curse made it somewhat less important, Epic Yarn marginalized it and in Mass Attack it is completely gone. Instead we have a new concept – a platform game where you do not control any individual character but indirectly influence up to 10 of them. It is an intriguing idea and HAL pulls it off fairly well, but without Kirby’s signature mechanic it gets familiar a little too quickly.

There is little to no exploration in the game, a few branching paths in some levels but mostly you are rushed through a corridor that can fit on the screen. Most of the later levels have some variation on the design – some remarkably different and very interesting, and some just tedious. It becomes tough to herd the Kirbys when you have many of them, some always get stuck in corners or behind walls and then the screen refuses to scroll forward into the level – as stated before, this would be a bigger issue if the game was harder, but it still makes the core experience annoying and discourages from replaying levels to discover all the secrets, which is sad.

Kirby Mass attack is still a good game, the level design is solid and the controls are good considering that the core gameplay is so innovative. It just feels like a lot of the game tries to use platform game cliches instead of coming up with something new and unique for the multi-character mechanic, not all of the levels but enough that the game is worse for it.

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Posted on Oct 17/11 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »