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Kirby: Canvas Curse

There’s an old saying that goes: All good things come to those who wait. Accordingly, DS owners have been waiting for months, impatiently grinding their teeth and looking for a truly awesome game that could breathe some life back into the handheld’s dull prospects. There’s nothing wrong with waiting for a promising game to come out, but Super Mario 64 DS, PictoChat, and the other handful of mediocre titles can hold a gamer’s attention for only so long. But as the DS grew a coat of dust on the shelves and fans began to question their newly purchased gaming device, a ray of hope suddenly shined brightly through the darkness of pathetically lackluster games and jeering opposition. Kirby: Canvas Curse has been unleashed upon the masses, a game that actually makes decent use of the DS’s capabilities and could bring Nintendo’s latest back into handheld contention.

Ravine Road apparently has tyres with eyeballs in the middle.

Welcome to an epic struggle for survival, where a mighty hero named Kirby is lost in a haze of paint and chaos. An evil witch named Drawcia has invaded Dreamland, sending everything awash in a flood of colorful art. Before our hero has a chance to wipe the floor with this wannabe artist, the sinister witch turns him into a tiny ball, leaving him to roll around aimlessly through his devastated homeland. With no weapons, powers, or limbs at his disposal, Kirby’s chances are looking pretty bleak. However, he does have an ace up his recently vanished sleeve. Your trusty stylus has been bestowed with magic, allowing it to draw lines throughout the vast realm of dreamland. Using nothing more than some skill, luck, and a firm grip, it’s up to you to guide Kirby through the artistic hell that Drawcia has created.

It doesn’t sound like much, does it? Compared with all of Kirby’s previous quests, drawing a few lines on a screen doesn’t really seem too impressive. However, the Touch Screen feature is meshed perfectly with the gameplay, a feat unmatched by most of the previous DS games. Using your stylus, you can poke Kirby, allowing him to roll and accelerate throughout the level. But when faced with hills, hazards, obstacles, and anything else that happens to be roaming around the area, it’s time to put your stylus to good use. Once you’ve traced out a line, Kirby will automatically cruise along until he reaches the end or the line disappears into thin air. However, this finely tuned method of movement can take a while to truly master and use to its fullest extent. You can use it to change Kirby’s direction ever so slightly, altering his trajectories and leading him to safety. Not only is the drawing good for getting over bottomless pits and steep ledges, but it can also serve as an enemy-proof shield, makeshift platforms, and whatever else your twisted mind can come up with.

There, that’s putting the stylus to good use.

Although many of the first few levels are cakewalks, many of the later ones will test your ability to handle your stylus with skill and technique. While you can clear some of the areas in mere seconds, the game will steadily increase in difficulty. There will higher emphasis on the use of the stylus and its ability to guide our hero through levels fraught with baddies, electrical currents, spikes, and plenty of other hazards that will deter you on the quest for Dreamland’s salvation. You’ll have to negotiate the treacherous landscape, drifting carefully over wide abysses, slightly dodging hazards and enduring the onslaught of enemy fire. Also, Kirby will be able to gain special powers, like Stone, Spark, Balloon, and a handful of other abilities that can make the quest a far easier undertaking. If you can master the stylus and powers and get Kirby through the levels unscathed, both he and his homeland will be back to normal in no time.

But if you’re in the need for something other than the basic adventure, Kirby: Canvas Curse comes loaded with extras just waiting to be found. The game comes with three boss mini-games, allowing you to test you skills in pinball, racing, and drawing against some mighty foes. However, the real beauty lies with the Rainbow Run minigames. Once you’ve beaten a world, you’ll be able to replay through its respective areas, speeding through Time Trials and carefully maneuvering through Line Trials. While Time Trial Mode simply tests your ability to get through the levels in the shortest amount of time, the Line Trials prove far more interesting. These special challenges gauges your use of the stylus, awarding you more points the less lines you use. The better score you get, the more medals you’ll be rewarded. You’ll be able to use these tiny tokens to trade in for the wide assortment of unlockables available. With alternate music, special levels, secret characters, and plenty of other surprises, you’ll be spending plenty of time unlocking every last one of them.

…and so is that.

Since you’ll be spending so much time playing through the levels and taking on challenges, you’ll have plenty an opportunity to admire the beautiful presentation that’s been given to us. Although Dreamland has been warped and drowned in paint, its aftermath is still easy on the eyes. The levels are rich in color and animation, a psychedelic clash of various hues, tints, and shades. You’ll be rolling through grassy hills and steamy jungles, wandering around mechanized power plants and giant ice caves. All of the animations, from Kirby’s rolling to the giant laser beams to the various special attacks, run with smooth perfection. When you factor in a simple and pleasant soundtrack, the resulting presentation of these combined elements is one of the finest yet seen on the DS.

It’s about time. It’s been a while since a game made such excellent use of the DS Touch Screen, that strange and mysterious feature that few game designers have welcomed with open arms. Thankfully, the latest installment of the Kirby series not only impresses, it stands tall among its contemporaries as one of the finest games on the system. With a loveable hero, incredibly technical handling, and a truckload of features all wrapped up in a wonderfully stylish presentation, Kirby: Canvas Curse not only brings a breath of fresh air to a seemingly stale handheld gaming world, but it also steals the spotlight with its undeniable quality.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

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