Kirby Mass Attack‘s premise is as straightforward as you’d expect. Snoozing in a field on Popopo Islands one day, dark clouds begin to fill the sky and Necrodeus, leader of the Skull Gang descends upon an unaware Kirby casting a mischievous spell on him in the process.
The magic immediately splits Kirby into ten copies of himself, each with a mere fraction of his powers, and Necrodeus defeats all but one. Thankfully before Kirby becomes extinct, the lone survivor is whisked away by a magic star – Kirby’s own heroic heart – who sets out to aid him in defeating the Skull Gang leader and reversing his potent magic.
Whilst the premise is as whimsical as ever it is in design that Kirby Mass Attack, blending real-time strategy with platform elements, differs, as the player finds themselves tasked with guiding the numerous pink balls on their quest to reunite Kirby as a whole. You begin with just a single Kirby, and to enlist the aid of others you must munch fruit that is conveniently littered across on your travels to fill a meter that, once complete, grants you an additional team member.
This, incidentally, acts as the game’s life system. Players can amass up to ten Kirbys in total, with whom your team soon becomes an unstoppable pink force. Each Kirby can take damage twice – turning blue after the first hit – and becoming a floating angel that you have one last attempt to save before they float off-screen to Kirby heaven. In turn, each stage within the game specifies the size of the team that you’ll need before you are able to tackle it, and progression is only granted once every stage has been completed within the world.
The concept echoes similarities to Pikmin, with certain environmental obstacles – such as weighted platforms or protruding vegetable roots – requiring a certain number of Kirby for you to be able to interact with them. You move your team with the use of a guiding star, a single tap on the touchscreen causing them to walk to your indicated destination whereas a double tap will see them run. You can also group your Kirbys into a floating ball to pass hazards, and combat sees the player either swarming over enemies as your Kirby team attempts to bash them senseless or flicking them individually at foes to cause damage. Certain instances will also see the player required to tap a Kirby icon as your squad tugs at an enemy’s tail or a heavy obstacle that requires moving.
Whilst safety in numbers could never be more understated, it is often easier to manage a smaller team to that of a full complement. As the difficulty continues to ramp up, you’ll begin to find your Kirbys taking more damage through no fault of your own as you steadily struggle to overcome increasingly hectic levels.
To counter this, your Kirby team may come across a Jumbo Candy which temporarily allows them to grow to an enormous size and grants invincibility for a short period. Much in the same way as New Super Mario Bros. Mega Mushrooms, this allows the player to rampage through the level, whilst the effects last, knocking all enemies and blocks aside.
Visually the game is astounding, characterful 2D environments providing a variety of colourful appeal. More inventive moments later in the game provide some standout moments, seeing the player using their amassed Kirbys to shift the weight of a balloon basket to dodge falling spikes, fleeing from a fossilised dinosaur, or catching waves on a star-shaped surfboard.
In elongating the game, you can also seek to complete secret challenges, which will grant the player an individual award once each has been fulfilled. These range from clearing a stage with 10 Kirbys, earning your first Gold Star or defeating a boss with 10 Kirbys remaining.
Of more prominence, however, are a series of extras that are unlocked through collecting Medals lying hidden and scattered throughout all levels. Such extras encompass a Music Player, as well as a number of mini-games that pack just as much quality as the main game itself. Examples include ‘Field Frenzy’ which is your standard whack-a-mole fare, Kirby Brawlball that is a unique spin on the pinball formula, and Strato Patrol EOS which is a scrolling shooter that sees the player flying a squadron of Kirbys as they blast oncoming enemies. The latter proves to be the best of the bunch, the player able to expand their squadron to ten Kirbys with whom not many foes can stand in your way!
Kirby Mass Attack successfully guides the series in a new direction, providing an enjoyable and well-varied game for Nintendo DS that will surely be remembered as one of the finest additions to the platform.