Up to now, as impressed as we've been with a lot of the DS output, there are only so many remakes and updates that we can reasonably be expected to get excited about. The last thing we want the DS to turn into is Nintendo's next shovelware system, with a check list of N64 games making an inexorable march into the 'games we've bought twice' category. And with that in mind we made an immediate beeline for the games being shown off at Nintendo's Parisian DS event that were new to us. Of which Kirby certainly looks one of the most promising.
As you may have read before, or gathered from the various screenshots released in recent months, this is another one of those DS titles that tasks you with hastily constructing temporary platforms underneath the central character in order to guide the little pink blob to a level exit, negotiating various deadly enemies and traps along the way. For the purposes of Touch! Kirby, though, we're asked to suspend our growing disbelief and imagine that our DS stylus is, in fact, a paintbrush, the platforms we create are made of paint, and we have a somewhat limited (but constantly regenerating) supply of the multi-coloured stuff with which to Paint To Victory, or whatever cunning slogan the chaps at Nintendo will eventually settle upon. Puntastic suggestions, as ever, are welcome here.
Presented, refreshingly, in an old school two dimensional style (as with a lot of DS-related titles, we're pleased to note), it initially looks a lot like an old school platformer, with a familiar side-on layout largely constructed of blocks to work your way up to, patrolling enemies that bob merrily from right to left and back again, and of course various bottomless pits, spike traps and the like to steer your way over. By drawing a line anywhere underneath or around Kirby, he will traverse the paint in whatever direction he's currently facing, and keep going along in such a fashion until the gradient becomes too steep (in which case he'll start rolling back the other way at increasing velocity until he meets some other obstacle).
But merely moving him around is only half the battle, with your energy gradually depleting every time you make contact with any of the various hazards or nasties populating the side scrolling level. Drain your energy to zero and - guess what? - it's back to the start of the level, or the last checkpoint if you've reached it. A far better idea is to use the various attacks available to Mr Blobby, which involve tapping Kirby himself. A quick stab at the wee fellow and he'll perform his basic spin attack, but collect one of the upgrades lying around and you'll be granted access to other, more powerful attacks. In this somewhat short-lived two level demo (selectable as 'Beginner' and 'Intermediate') we only managed to come across a sort of rotating dual arm of flaming death, which basically takes out anything in its path.
As a sort of instantly addictive and unusual take on the platform genre it completely won us over with controls that were both simple and intuitive, yet with a gameplay dynamic that was fresh and challenging enough to make it feel very different from the generic side scrolling platform fodder we've long since grown weary of. Visually as well, the return to a crisp 2D viewpoint has been handled with the usual amount of finesse you expect from a Nintendo first-party title.
Although it's still very much early days for this title, there's enough of a glimpse of the promise to come from Kirby to warrant keeping this in mind when the game emerges blinking into the daylight later this year.