While Mario and his friends have mainly stuck with platform titles and sports games, with one or two unique and innovative twists, Kirby has often gotten all of his game mechanics completely turned upside down, something that has resulted in memorable titles such as Kirby's Epic Yarn.
In his latest Nintendo DS adventure you're not equipped with yarn or a magical brush, instead Kirby come equipped with multiple personalities. Necrodeus, leader of the Skull Gang and overall bad guy, has waved his magical wand at Kirby and split him into ten smaller versions of the lovable fellow. Naturally they want to be reunited.
While it's still a platform title, the D-pad and face buttons play second fiddle to the stylus, which is really the only thing you need in order to control proceedings. A simple click on-screen sends Kirby in that direction, a double click will make him run. If you press down the stylus he will start to hover, then follow the line you are creating with the stylus. A quick line is rewarded with Kirby throwing himself in that direction. If there are enemies that needs dealing with, you simply hit them with the stylus, and the otherwise peaceful hero will start flailing his arms and move towards.
In the beginning the system seems simple, especially since you only start with a single Kirby on screen. Defeated enemies leave apples, bananas or other fruits behind and as Kirby eats enough of these another Kirby will join in, until you've collected a total of ten Kirbys. Keeping track of ten fluffy pink things is a challenge, but it works really well and is seldom frustrating.
It's once again the original developers behind the Kirby series who are responsible for the game, and their knowledge of the universe result in a game filled with original problems to solve. It still revolves around getting from the left side to the right, but very seldom will you experience any longer period time without a new type of enemy, challenge or use of the game mechanics, and it feels fresh all along.
Trees must be topped by sending a group of Kirbys up the tree to ruffle the crown, while fruit bonuses must be collected before they fly away. Enemies can be distracted by a single Kirby while a group viciously attack it and use their flailing arms to take them down. The famous bosses of the series are given new life here and often require a bit of strategy - the boss fights are very entertaining and I wouldn't want to spoil them by detailing them here.
The originality doesn't end with that, as an added bonus Hal Laboratory has included some simple but entertaining bonus games. There are things ranging from "Whack-a-mole" to long distance running, and pinball, but the best out of the bunch is without a doubt "Strato Patrol EOS" a shoot 'em up where Kirby is a spaceship that shoots enemies, avoids projectiles and collects bonuses.
You have to unlock these bonus games by finding golden coins that are usually hidden in the most hard to reach places. Hunting for these is unfortunately one of the more tiresome elements of the game, especially since luck is involved in getting some of them towards the latter stages.
Random circumstances are also a problem in other parts of the adventure, and can cost you lives. If a Kirby is hit once it turns blue, another misstep and it turns white, grows wings, and starts flying towards the top of the screen. If you're quick enough you can get it in time and bring it back to the group. The system results in the game being just as easy as many Kirby titles for the most part, while at other times it's a cause of frustration to have to click on all your flying Kirbys to bring them back down.
Kirby Mass Attack is likely one of the last major Nintendo titles to hit DS, and it's a rather fitting end to an era. The game pushes the hardware and shows some of the best sides of the device with beautiful pixel graphics, well crafted stylus controls and lots of originality, and cements the handheld is the best choice for fans of platform titles. The happy pink fellow starred in one of the first truly great DS titles and with this game he puts a memorable end to his run on DS.