Version tested: DS
When I was little I once made Kirby marshmallows with little chocolate eyes and wine gums for shoes, and my horrible brother traumatised me by melting them into a gooey, pink, vaguely Dali-esque distorted mess with a handheld blowtorch. I've never been the same. Kirby, however, has stayed pretty much exactly the same for the past 14 years, as this remake attests. It's almost identical to Kirby Super Star on the SNES, with a few touch-based mini-games thrown in, but you wouldn't necessarily know it - it's the same mix of gently unchallenging platforming and ability-gobbling that has characterised every Kirby game before or since, with the notable and lovable exception of Power Paintbrush. I'm not quite sure whether that testifies to Kirby's quirky timelessness or just reluctance to innovate.
Kirby Super Star is a collection of bite-sized games and mini-games; it was essentially the Kirby version of Super Mario All-Stars in 1995, albeit with loads less content. No individual game has more than about 20 minutes to an hour's worth of play, with the possible exception of the treasure-hunting Great Cave Offensive. There are basic gameplay tenets common to them all, but they dart thematically around between normal Kirby platforming, races, timed challenges, treasure-collecting and boss-fighting. There are seven components in all, and three throwaway touchscreen mini-games.
The weakest offering in the collection is the first - and initially only - game on offer, Spring Breeze, a remake of Dream Land with extra powers and Helpers thrown in. When Kirby sucks up an enemy and absorbs its power, he can reincarnate it as a Helper and have it fight on his side, so you can keep one useful ability for yourself and have a Helper with another. You can have a friend jump in over wireless play and control the Helper, which adds a lot of life to Super Star Ultra. There's more incentive to find and mess with all the different abilities when you're playing with a friend.
Spring Breeze is bland and ludicrously short and easy, designed as an introduction to all things Kirby for absolute beginners, but things do get better from there, if not more challenging. Dyna Blade is a more substantial, five-stage slice of platforming action that even has a mildly difficult end boss. Gourmet Race is an insubstantial but entertaining racing twist on the formula, getting you and a friend to rush through levels gobbling as much food as possible to gain momentum and reach the end before King Dedede.
Great Cave Offensive is the meatiest game on offer, a huge world-spanning treasure hunt with a wealth of secret areas and 60 different chests of valuable nonsense to find. Save-points are annoyingly infrequent; being unable to save mid-game isn't a problem when the games themselves are only about 20 minutes long, but in Great Cave Offensive it is possible to lose an hour of progress. Revenge of Meta Knight is a series of timed levels, peppered with bosses, cute dialogue and fast-paced action, and is the only section of the game that's ever likely to kill you.