When I was recently thinking about the current state of the DS, one game I kept returning to was Kirby: Canvas Curse. Or Kirby: Power Paintbrush. Or Touch! Kirby. Or whichever of its many names it may be going by. Released a few months after the DS, it was a game that came with no expectations, and was absolutely stunning.
But what about now, five years later? Was the magic of this platformer part of the DS's freshness, and the thrill of a game using the hardware well? Or is it a classic?
Platform games on the DS have had to take two routes to be successful. Either they've needed to ignore the screen altogether and rely on the face buttons. Or they've needed to be innovative.
The space between is where games attempted to replicate the perfectly good controls the buttons can offer, but on the touch-screen. That can only lead to frustration - the knowledge that if only they'd not tried to bend and crumple things in such a way you'd be playing a far better game.
Those that defer to the buttons deserve respect. It's a game that knows what it wants to do, what it wants to deliver, and isn't going to let fancy, shiny new things distract it. The Mario & Luigi games stand as the most exemplary. But HAL Laboratory had a better idea for Kirby.
I do not profess to be a Kirby historian. In fact, I have played very few of HAL Lab's games across the various generations of Nintendo consoles. So the pink bird-thing holds no particular affection for me. The series, set in its own private universe across about 20 games, feels to me a bit like Gobots to Mario's Transformers. Duplo to Sonic's Lego. Even the subsequent Kirby games on DS have been decent, but not special.
What makes this game so intriguing is the indirect control. You don't play as Kirby. You instead play as you - a sort of omnipotent being watching over the world in which Kirby exists - given a magic paintbrush with which to interact.
It's that same sense of the meta that Another Code offered: you have indeed been handed this magic paintbrush in the form of the DS's stylus. Draw on the screen with it and a rainbow-coloured swoosh appears, then soon evaporates away. It's by this means that you mostly control Kirby, who has by the way been turned into a spherical blob.
In fact, the story setup deserves attention, as it's hilariously silly. Right at the start in a splurge of mad text you're welcomed to peaceful Dreamland, Kirby on a nice stroll. But then the world's colours change, and a witch appears and turns the land into a painting. As you might expect.
Seeing Kirby, the witch flees into the sky, toward a weird vortex. Kirby chases! He's now in a world of paintings. The witch's magic turns Kirby into a ball! The witch escapes. But looking down in shame, our hero sees the magical paintbrush, and then transports it to you in a ray of light. Go!
That's some awesome storytelling. They wanted a round Kirby, levels that look painted, and a reason for bouncing around them, and dammit, they wrote a story that gave them that.
Kirby mostly rolls onward of his own accord. Even uphill. But tapping on him will give him a spin and accelerated movement. That's the extent to which you can directly control him. Everything else comes from the paths you paint him to ride.
The rainbow lines act like travelators, guiding the pink ball where you'd like him to go. Swoosh a looping path and he'll roll along that, combining his own inertia with gravity, letting you flip and sweep him where you'd like him to be. It's elegant, and it's unique.
Your other mode of interaction is tapping on enemies. Again, you can't do much here - merely stun them by poking at them. When stunned Kirby can roll into them for the kill. Many enemies will then pass on their special power to your pink friend, letting him turn into a missile, or a heavy hexagonal block, or a super-fast wheel, and so on.
Occasionally a specific power will be necessary for reaching a certain area, and thus collecting one of each area's coins. Along with gathering stars that garner you extra lives, coins are the only other significant collectable, exchanged for bonuses from the menu's 'shop'.
So there it all is, the premise, the interaction. Does it still stand up today? Or has the DS become so familiar that this is now the norm, not something quite so astounding?
I think that there has certainly been a slight edge of novelty removed. Not necessarily through repetition of the game's techniques - if anything it's a great shame more copying hasn't taken place, let alone that there's not been a sequel in the same format.
But more because we're quite used to the DS now, to drawing a line and seeing its effects on the world. And we can draw lines on our iPhone too. And probably our kettle. However, there's another hugely significant ingredient here: the speed.
I've had a head cold throughout my time replaying the game. My eyes ache, my nose stings, I'm heavy with the weight of it. And Kirby could not be a better game for such a time. It's just so slow. So perfectly slow.
It's a remarkably contrary way for a platform game. Canvas Curse just wants you to take your time. There's no rush. Nothing's going anywhere. Most of the big, sprawling levels are packed with secret areas, extra bonuses, multiple routes, and even alternative exits. No clock counts down, no ability runs out.
The borderline lackadaisical approach gives you space and time to create the painted routes you wish to take, explore the top-left corner you might want to visit, and never starts nagging you to reach the goal.
This doesn't mean it isn't ever tricky - while certainly an easy game, later stages offer some decent challenges. However, there are a very few levels which do put pressure on you, either scrolling the screen from the left or below, and these stand out as by far the poorest moments. They're the levels that don't get it.
For those wanting the speed trials, any completed area goes into the game's Rainbow Run area, letting you attempt to score best times, or using minimal amounts of ink, so that's all in there too. But the game is at its best when it's just taking its sweet time.
Flopped in bed, lethargic and snotty, it's a perfect accompaniment. The magic is certainly still there five years on.