Nintendo’s pink puffball gets his first Wii U game, with a sequel to Power Paintbrush on the DS – but how far will its gameplay draw you in?
It’s often said that panic mode Nintendo always sees the company at its best. Like all games publishers they go through a cycle of earnest effort followed by overconfident laziness, with many of their best games arriving only after a particularly lean period of releases. But, again like any company, they also have their smaller titles, those lower budget schedule-fillers which never affect the fate of a console one way or another. Games like Kirby And The Rainbow Paintbrush…
To the average European gamer the bewildering array of new Kirby games that are released each generation makes little sense. The little pink blob is clearly a B-lister and most of his games are 1) pointlessly easy and 2) almost identical to each another. But for reasons that we’ve never quite understood Kirby is extremely popular in America and Japan, and considered an important and notable franchise (which explains why this was released in America months ago, as Kirby And The Rainbow Curse).
Most of the Kirby games are 2D platformers that utilise his ability to swallow enemies and steal their powers. But there are spin-offs as well, and one of the more popular ones was early DS game Kirby: Power Paintbrush. One of the first DS games to prove the touchscreen and stylus could be used as the primary input in an action game, it had Kirby stuck in a permanent ball and you were tasked with guiding him about by drawing roller-coaster like rails for him to roll along.
Rainbow Paintbrush is essentially a sequel, except that now you’re using the GamePad and, unlike the original, you can no longer steal enemy abilities. You just roll.
Also, for no readily apparent reason, the world is portrayed via Wallace & Gromit style claymation. We say for no apparent reason because not only does the paper thin plot not give any context to the visuals (it just explains why Kirby is trapped as a ball) but they don’t really have any relevance to the gameplay either. The graphics look great, but they’re purely a surface level visual gimmick.
The lack of thematic continuity is unusual for Nintendo and is just one of many signs that the game was rushed out and hastily designed. But even in this dumbed down form the mechanics are amusingly novel, and getting Kirby to loop the loop in order to pick up some speed, and learning how to brake by drawing lines in front or behind him, is a lot of fun.
However, the game’s obstacles become quickly repetitive, as you smash through blocks or collect enough stars to charge up and… smash through some bigger blocks. There are some cleverer ideas later on, such as using lines to redirect waterfalls or remove sand from your path, but it’s really only in the last couple of stages that the game sparks into life – as you have to control two Kirbys at once and navigate much more precisely.
These more interesting ideas come much too late though and instead the game’s short running time is gummed up with tedious vehicle levels where Kirby transforms into either a tank, a submarine, or a rocket. These are quite novel at first but get tiresome halfway through and absolutely do not deserve to be repeated later on in the game. The same goes for the boss battles, which are also shamelessly repeated – only with slightly different colour schemes.
Oddly Kirby also has a co-op option, allowing up to three other players to join in the game with you – except they get to play as standard platform characters (series regulars the Waddle Dees). These can jump and spear enemies and are arguably more fun to control than Kirby himself. They’re also the only reason to have the TV on while you play, as otherwise all your time is spent staring at the GamePad.
You can beat the story mode in about five or six hours and beyond that all the game has to offer is a series of one room challenge modes, which regurgitate exactly the same sort of puzzles and set pieces from the story mode.
There’s little that’s actively bad about Rainbow Paintbrush, except for the low resolution of the GamePad – which often means it can’t quite keep up with the speed you draw new lines – but you soon learn to cope with that. However, like most Kirby games the difficultly level is set very low and that only emphasises just how dull and empty the game is.
There are a few clever ideas at work here but almost all of them were done better in Power Paintbrush, and none of them justify this being a full price release. We doubt many will mourn the wasted potential though, as Kirby And The Rainbow Paintbrush seems doomed to be quickly forgotten – even and especially by those that have actually played it.
Kirby And The Rainbow Paintbrush
In Short: A tepid sequel to Kirby: Power Paintbrush, that even with its short running time barely manages to stretch it’s small collection of ideas across a whole game.
Pros: The central concept is neat and there are a few interesting puzzles, especially towards the end. Great art style deserves to be used in a better game. Decent co-op options.
Cons: The level design is bland and repetitive, with ideas and enemies constantly being repeated. Dull vehicle levels. Very short running time and little replay value.
Formats: Wii U
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Release Date: 8th May 2015
Age Rating: 3