It’s Kirby time again! The pink puffball in back in a new adventure on the 3DS called Kirby: Planet Robobot, and this time he’s gone mecha. The world, as usual, is in trouble and it’s Kirby’s job to save planet Pop Star from the mad machinations of The Access Ark and its robotic minions. This is the first new Kirby game since last year’s Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush on Nintendo Wii U, so let’s find out what the denizens of Pop Star have for us.
Kirby: Planet Robobot sees Kirby waking up from his usual nap to find that a spaceship called the Access Ark has landed on planet Pop Star and roboticized all the things. Naturally, this means that Kirby is the only one left to make things right. One lone hero to stand against the forces of evil, inhale them, and copy their abilities.
Since Kirby: Planet Robobot is part of the main series, it sees a return to the standard copy-ability-platforming format of the series. Each area is portrayed as one of Access Ark’s legs, and destroying the boss of each area destroys the relevant leg. Naturally, you can’t just proceed from level to level and then expect to fight a boss; each level contains a number of code cubes, and collecting enough code cubes throughout the various levels will unlock the boss level. Thankfully, it’s easy enough to go back to a previously-finished level and scour for cubes. Many of the later levels have the cubes hidden in plain sight behind environmental puzzles.
Aside from the dual fore- and background platform mechanic that return from Kirby: Triple Deluxe, the big new mechanic for Kirby: Planet Robobot is that Kirby gets his own Kirby-shaped mech. Much like Kirby himself, the mech can scan enemies for abilities and copy them. The mech doesn’t appear in every level, mind, but it’s common enough that you’ll get a really good use out of it. The mech itself is more than just an extension of Kirby: it’s stronger, tougher, and can do a number of things Kirby can’t, such as undo bolts and screws that Kirby might find dotted around a level. It can also pick up heavy loads and punch heavy objects, so it’s definitely not one of those mono-purpose tools. The game also features collectible stickers that you can paste onto your mech, making it it something uniquely yours. Completionists are going to have a fun time with this game; there are just so many stickers to collect!
The big thing with Kirby is his ability to copy the powers of the foes he comes across, and with this game there are a few new powers to collect, with more than 25 abilities in all (some of them require amiibo to acquire). Some of them feel pointless, such as the Doctor Kirby ability. It’s cute the way he throws oversized pills, but it doesn’t really add much. The ESP ability on the other hand, was so extremely useful that I felt it nerfed most bosses just because of how powerful the ability is. Your mileage may vary, of course, but it’s at least worth trying them all.
Some of the abilities, when scanned by the mech, actually change the entire nature of the game. There are stages, for example, where you’re required to scan a Jet ability in, converting the mech to a rocket-powered Kirby-plane. Suddenly you’re playing a side-scrolling shoot-em up instead of a platformer. I enjoyed these changes of pace; adding a little fun, surprising variety here and there makes for interesting gameplay.
One mainstay of Kirby games is a collection of separately-playable minigames and alternate play modes. In Kirby: Planet Robobot, two of these modes are available from the start: Team Kirby Clash and Kirby 3D Rumble. Team Kirby Clash is an RPG-style game boiled down to a series of boss fights, with you and up to three friends battling. You’re limited to one of the four standard hero classes (and this is where the Doctor copy ability starts to make some sense). Beating each boss nets you the usual experience points. You can play it alone with a single AI companion, but this isn’t as much fun as getting together with a group of friends for a round of Team Clash. Playing this mode actually made me wish to see a decent Kirby RPG, but the chances of that happening are slim to none. The other mode, 3D Rumble is a single player puzzle mode where you need to defeat a number of foes on a 3D board while collecting the coins scattered about. You’re rated on time and efficiency, and if you want to get the platinum medals you need to be fast. Both modes provided a decent fun distraction from the main game, and with a little expansion could actually serve as standalone eShop titles.
This game is pure Kirby, so if you’ve played a Kirby game before, you’ll be so familiar with the controls and mechanics that you can pretty much pick up and play and just about everything will be what you know and love. The mech has a few new controls to add to the game, such as spinning the circle pad to undo screws, but these are adequately explained on the screen when it’s needed. If you’ve enjoyed Kirby before, or enjoy platformers (who doesn’t?), you’ll probably enjoy playing this.