“Kirby and the Rainbow Curse” looks absolutely amazing. Its unique blend of Claymation and CGI gives the game a fabulous, colorful look that’s much more consistently appealing than other games like “The Neverhood” and “Clay Fighter” that attempted video game Claymation back in the ’90s.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

D+
Nintendo
Wii U Exclusive


Unfortunately, it’s also totally boring. Its unique look just isn’t enough to make up for its lackluster level design and heavily flawed cooperative gameplay.

“Kirby and the Rainbow Curse” is a 2-D platformer controlled exclusively using the Wii U Gamepad’s touch screen. Kirby (whose limbs have been compacted in what we can only assume was a truly horrific accident) takes the form of a sphere, which the player controls using rainbow pathways he or she draws with the stylus. It’s the same system used in the early DS game “Kirby: Canvas Curse,” only it’s way less interesting here. Kirby can’t copy the abilities of his enemies, and the gameplay of “Rainbow Curse” feels empty without this staple ability that has consistently been the most interesting part of “Kirby” games throughout the series’ long history.

Perhaps I have been spoiled by Nintendo’s other recently released platformers, like “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” and “Super Mario 3D World.” These games are highly regarded for introducing a new gameplay concept into every single level, always shaking things up enough to keep its solid base of platforming mechanics interesting throughout. “Rainbow Curse” fails to reach this high bar. By the second world, I was tired of controlling Kirby with the stylus and the overly simple mechanics introduced as I progressed had me clamoring for complexity. I can remember most of the levels in “Super Mario Galaxy 2,” because of the new gameplay dimensions it introduced in each of its dozens of levels. I’d be hard-pressed to come up with more than a few innovative mechanics introduced in “Rainbow Curse.”

The game tries to shake up the typically bland level design with simple vehicle-based segments. Sadly, these levels fail to interest after their initial impact, and they quickly become just as boring as their more standard counterparts.

The game’s end-of-world bosses are initially moments of intrigue among the blandness, but only for the first three worlds. The bosses of worlds four through six are re-skins of the first three bosses. It’s an inexcusable corner-cutting measure, proving that this game likely would have been better if it had more development time.

The game offers cooperative play for up to four players, but this cooperative experience is heavily flawed. No matter what, the first player dictates the boundaries of the screen as Kirby (the other players follow along with Wii remotes as secondary “Waddle Dee” characters). While I played through World One with two other players, the newcomers were consistently warped to my location after lagging behind or running ahead of me. Besides being able to attack foes, they had no agency over the level’s progression and quickly became frustrated. The co-op in “Rainbow Curse” typically boils down to “run around pointlessly while player one actually accomplishes things,” completely defeating the purpose of multiplayer.

To make matters worse, playing in co-op mode adds a tedious mini-boss fight into each level, in which the non-Kirby players must defeat an enemy that grabs and restrains Player One. It feels like a lame concession to the co-op players, with the designers acknowledging the lack of substantive multiplayer gameplay.

If you’re looking for a great Wii U platformer, leave “Rainbow Curse” in the dust and head straight for “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze,” a game with infinitely better level design and a whole lot more heart.

“Kirby and the Rainbow Curse” was reviewed using a digital copy provided by Nintendo.

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