Kirby: Canvas Curse is a terrific game as it constantly encourages you to use the Nintendo DS’ unique capabilities in both fun and innovative ways.
Though Kirby probably isn’t one of Nintendo’s most popular characters (Mario probably owns that title,) it still is one of the most recognizable ones as every Nintendo console has had at least one distinctive platformer game with the character in it. When the Nintendo DS was released, a mandatory Kirby title debuted on the portable system. Something players will instantly notice about Kirby: Canvas Curse is its distinctive gameplay as controls are entirely stylus-based but without altering its core formula.
As most games in the series, Canvas Curse takes place in Dream Land a colorful place where our hero lives. The game’s story is quite simple: One day a portal appears in front of Kirby and a Witch comes out of it, turning everything into a painting and transforming our pink friend into a ball. When the witch tries to escape into a vortex Kirby quickly follows her and eventually, he finds a mysterious item known as Power Paintbrush.
After suffering this odd transformation, Kirby gains some unique abilities like the possibility of dashing when you tap his body and he can also ride rainbows that are drawn with the stylus. As I previously mentioned, all the controls are touch-based so you never need to use any buttons at all. Additionally, throughout the adventure Kirby has to face many distinctive enemies and as usual, he can even acquire their special powers. Doing this is extremely simple, first you need to tap and enemy to stun it and then, once Kirby touches it, he can start using its ability. Some of these powers are necessary to open certain areas and reach some specific places, so getting abilities is more strategic than it may seem at first sight. Tapping quickly becomes a really useful resource as you can also use it to destroy items that block your path (like clouds and bricks) and you can even match the colors of little boxes in order to unlock doors.
To use Rainbows, on the other hand, you have to take into account the amount of ink you have in reserve. A meter shows you how much ink you have left and considering that this can be very limited you really need to know how to use it. Fortunately, ink recharges over time and the meter refills even faster when you’re on solid ground, so knowing how to strategically alternate between ground levels and rainbows generated in the air is encouraged. Variety is a constant, especially in level, enemy and item design. The multiple levels are extremely colorful and each one has an overall theme that suits the title quite well, so you’ll definitely encounter the mandatory ice, lava and underwater levels.
Although the game is extremely fun, it definitely has some problems. At times, controls will undoubtedly get in the way and trying to move gracefully is much more difficult than it should, but take into account that this was one of the first Nintendo DS games ever released so you’ll definitely see that developers were just learning how to use the portable console’s unique capabilities. The fact that controls aren’t as tight and precise as they should definitely leads to some incredibly frustrating moments, but fortunately constant checkpoints make sure you don’t have to play the same sections over and over and they compensate for the (sometimes) high difficulty. Also, the fact that the game doesn’t have multiplayer support of any kind is simply disappointing and it would have been a really good addition.
The game features a variety of extras that add replayability. Canvas Curse is not extremely long and it should take you 5 to 6 hours to beat, but once you are done with the main playthrough you can do many other things. Rainbow Run lets you replay certain stages and each one allows you to participate in either time trial and line trial modes. The former is pretty much self-explanatory (finish the stage as fast as you can,) but the latter is much more intricate as it encourages you to finish the level by using the least amount on ink possible. As you complete these challenges the game awards you with medals that are used as currency and these can exchanged for special items like new music samples, rainbow lines and so on. Furthermore, the extras menu includes other minigames like Block Attack, Cart Run and Paint Panic. These are also featured in the main game and are really compelling to play as they offer a nice change of pace and also require you to use the stylus in both fun and innovative ways.
Graphically, Canvas Curse is great. The game uses vividly colorful graphics that add more personality to the title and are more than suiting for a Kirby game. Each level is quite distinctive from the rest and all of them are full of details and nice little touches. Soundwise, the game is also excellent mainly because music is quite cheerful and lighthearted. In addition, each attack Kirby performs has a clear repercussion in the sound department, making the game even more charming and appealing.
In the end, Kirby: Canvas Curse is a terrific game as it has everything you expect from a platformer of this kind. The title has innovative controls, lighthearted music and colorful graphics, delivering a very good experience. Unfortunately, imprecise controls will lead to some frustrating moments and the game doesn’t have multiplayer support, but inventive level design and huge replayability make up for these inconveniences. If you own a DS and you want to play a unique stylus-based experience, look no further, this game is definitely for you.