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Wei Man takes a look at what Nintendo's first- & second-parties have to offer

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// DS Lite
// King Kong
// Electroplankton
// Kirby: Canvas Curse
// WarioWare: Touched!

// 1st/2nd Parties
// E3 Surprises
// DS to Wii
// Wii Reaction
// The Difference
Kirby: Canvas Curse
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Number of Players: 1
Memory: 3 slots
Controls: Touch
Online Wi-fi Compatible: No
Release Date: 6/13/05
[ objective ]
Subjective (you are here)
[ subjective ]

The story is simple and not engaging. It isn't an interesting story, as it's pretty much cookie-cutter by now; a witch turns the world into a painting and the hero must save it. The story is not emphasized on whatsoever throughout the game. The only time players will be reminded of their mission is during the intro and ending cinematics. It seems the only reason there even is a story is to give an excuse as to why Kirby is a ball while you play.

Obviously the developer did not build this game around the storyline, and it shows. It is such an unimportant aspect of the game that writing about it here has, in all honesty, been pointless. There just isn't anything more to say.

The controls in Canvas Curse are so simple that it eases my job as a reviewer. Describing them to readers is relatively simple, yet as accurate as can be (check the Objective side of this review for the lowdown on the controls). There is no complexity in explaining how the different buttons on the system work together. It's simple: players draw and tap the screen with the stylus to control the main character. Anybody who sees it can understand it, play it, and have fun without the trouble of learning or getting used to the controls. That's the basis of this game's control play.

Behind the controls lies brilliant level design that takes full advantage of the newly-redefined platforming found in Canvas Curse. Players can choose to either whizz through the oft-vertically-inclined levels, or take the time and explore every corner and solve every puzzle, which usually yields discoveries that help in the hunt for red medals. There are also multiple branches to some areas, so going through the same level multiple times doesn't have to be as repetitive as one would think. The checkpoints are placed rather conveniently in every area, which helps in solving some difficult puzzles, or passing through difficult platforming areas.

Protect Kirby!
This shows a little of how interesting the game design in the game works: players must draw the line that directs kirby inbetween the hero and the canons, for protection (click to see second screen)

Speaking of difficulty, there isn't much of it in Canvas Curse. It isn't a difficult game. Some latter areas might take most players a few tries to pass through when playing the game for the first time, but two or three tries is the most you'll need to pass through the most difficult areas in the game. Add to that the fact that the main quest shouldn't take anyone more than 5 hours to beat, and you've got a rather short, easy quest that can easily be played through in a rental.

However, beating the main quest once is a small part of the complete Canvas Curse package. There is a Rainbow Run mode, with Time and Line Trials, that adds a lot of replay value to the game. While this game mode recycles a lot of the main quest's areas, it does help in showing players how brilliant the level design in Canvas Curse can really be. At some points, it'll feel as if the areas were specifically modeled with the intent for them to be played through in Time or Line Trial.

These aformentioned modes rely on familiarity. Since the game makes you play the areas over and over, learning the position of all obstacles is key in getting the best time in Time Trial and the best paint record in Line Trial.

Suddenly the line physics are reversed as the hero is forced to float upwards while underwater (click to see second screen)

In addition to these modes are fun and unique mini-game boss levels that can be played over and over. Trying to get a high score in these is a nice bonus, and is required for collecting all red medals. Players who collect all the red medals in the game, which, by the way, doesn't feel like a collect-a-thon, will be treated to unlockables that further extend the game's replayability, albeit by once again recycling the main quest's levels. In all, completing every single thing in the game should take most people around 20 hours, a good number for a handheld platformer.

The quality of the 2D art in Canvas Curse is a rare treat. Considering the power of the DS, handheld 2D games have never looked better, and Kirby's latest adventure is a prime example. The animation on the sprites is smooth. Players won't notice any bad animation unless they were specifically set out to look for them. The character ball's rolling animation features many frames, resulting in a smooth roll, for example. A nice black outline complements the character sprites, giving the game some style.

The game is very colourful. It's a Kirby game, after all, and these have always been some of the most colourful platformers. That's not to say that the colours are tacky, however: they actually blend together well to make for a vibrant look.

Kirby travels through extremely low temperatures in what is one of the best-looking 2D screenshots this editor has seen (click to see second screen)

The static nature of the backgrounds is disappointing, however. While it does add up with the story, in that the world of Dream Land was turned into a painting, the lack of any sort of animation and activity in the backdrops will probably leave you underwhelmed. The art that makes the backdrops is very nice, but multiple layers, for instance, would've made them more interesting to look at.

Canvas Curse's soundtrack, while large in track quantity, doesn't offer much variety. The level music tracks are all uptempo, staying true to the happy-go-lucky theme of the Kirby series, yet ending up being disappointing as a whole.

Most of the sound tracks don't bring out the best of the levels in which they are heard, meaning that the music in the haunted levels don't sound like they belong in those, and only those, levels. Using the same music in another, non-haunted level, won't make that much a difference. In that regard, the music doesn't have a big impact and can easily be forgettable.

That said, there are a few great tunes to be heard throughout the game.

When an industry has been around for as long as gaming has, it will tend to get a little cliché; a little unoriginal. Nowadays, innovation is hard to come by, as over 20 years after the industry's birth, a majority of developers is running out of truly unique ideas.

With the release of the Nintendo DS came a much-needed spark in innovation: a whole system dedicated to the idea of refreshing the industry. Yet even with the hardware's prospectively innovative outlook, it seemed as if, at least for the first few months of the system's release in the North-American market, the software just wasn't living up to the hype of innovative gameplay. Then, out comes an unsuspecting pink hero to save the day: Kirby's first adventure on the DS is released and finally gives the DS some worth.

The controls in Canvas Curse are a testament to one of Nintendo's most recently-adopted philosophies, stating that simple gaming can not only be fun and innovative, but can be accessible to a wide range of people, both hardcore- and non-gamers. Canvas Curse welcomes anyone to come and have fun, without a learning curve to turn off anyone unwilling to invest the time in learning new play controls. With intuitive controls, great 2D art, a good soundtrack with over 250 sound effects to complement it, great replay value and just a plain source of fun, Kirby: Canvas Curse is indeed the Nintendo DS's first killer app. in North America.

It's not a perfect game. The fact that most of the replay value seems to recycle the same, base levels hurts the full experience in that it becomes a little repetitive, and the soundtrack lacks a little variety, despite the big amount of tracks. Even with these nitpicks, however, this title is still a very enjoyable one.

Kirby: Canvas Curse is finally shedding some light on Nintendo's vision and intent with the Nintendo DS. The fresh gameplay in Canvas Curse harkens back to the day when gaming was fresh and new, reminding those of us who are old enough to have seen the release of classic games, such as Super Mario Bros. 3, of the experience and joy we had playing something so new and fun. The freshness of Canvas Curse is that powerful.

Highly recommended to all DS owners.

Simple, unique, effective and pure fun. Area recycling hurts the overall experience
Very nice; colourful yet not tacky, and good 2D sprite animation. Static backgrounds are disappointing
Music is not much varied and features few memorable tracks. Sound effects are aplenty and enjoyable, however
Around 5 hours to beat the main quest, and 20 hours to complete the game with 100%
It's not the type of game that grows old, considering its fresh take on platforming
Overall [not an average] 9.5

Loop through the green fields
Kirby travels along a line protecting him from canon blasts
Going underwater
Kirby...shot from a canon!
Through the Ghost Grounds
Beautiful magma level
Plenty of blocks to break
1-up in the colourless, mechanical level
Sunset level with an early version of a red medal
Get that Maxim Tomato!
Double Loop through Tiny Town
Kirby has put on a little weight over the years
Laser action

[ back to main review page ]
[ objective ]
Subjective (you are here)
[ subjective ]

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