Outstanding 3D and buckets of charm, Kirby: Planet Robobot is a joy from start to finish
Available formats: Nintendo 3DS
Who would have thought that Kirby would end up as one of the greatest champions of the 3DS? Whereas other games have all but abandoned making meaningful use of its glasses-free 3D, the pink puff ball’s latest outing puts it front and centre, building on the excellent foundation work laid down by its brilliant 2014 predecessor, Kirby Triple Deluxe.
Once again, each level is split into two distinct planes – one at the front of the screen and one at the back – with Kirby constantly jostling back and forth between the two as he heads toward the goal. It’s a simple idea, but one that’s brilliantly executed, and it downright demands that you crank up the 3D slider to its highest setting so you can bask in its stylish, visual splendour.
Whether it’s the Waddle Dee-driven cars that stop at oncoming traffic lights to let Kirby cross the road, the swirls of giant ice-cream cones that topple over and repeatedly splat the screen, or the snappy, Tetris-style blocks that burst out toward you later on, each and every level is an utter delight to play, and the whole game turns the Nintendo charm dial right up to eleven.
Even with its loosely-themed areas, all of which are based around one, giant robotic leg of a planet-eating spider fortress, you never quite know what’s going to happen next, as each level is always completely different from the last. You still see some ideas get recycled over the course of the game, but even after you’ve encountered your tenth ‘carry this volatile battery to the teleport machine over yonder’ scenario to unlock a special code cube required for opening up that world’s final boss battle, HAL usually give just enough of a twist to prevent it from becoming repetitive.
If anything, a return appearance of any given motif is usually a sign that something’s changed, such as the giant snooker tables in World 2-4. Your first couple of encounters simply sees you dodging incoming balls to get to the other side, but later on you can hit them back into the screen to clear some debris and reveal a hidden treasure chest. Of course, you’ve also then got to find the star gate or pipe to get you back there to open it, which sometimes requires a bit more detective work than you might expect for a Kirby game.
Some puzzles, however, can’t be solved unless you have the aid of Kirby’s new mecha bot companion, which you can jump into whenever you see one parked in a particular level. This rotund suit of armour gives our pint-sized hero a massive upgrade when it comes to overall strength, and its ability to inhale enemies and steal their powers just like its master gives players a whole new set of tools to get to grips with.
The Cutter ability, for instance, will give regular Kirby a kind of sword-like boomerang weapon, but inhale it while you’re in your robot and you’ll sprout buzz saws on the end of your arms, allowing you slice huge log barriers in two with the touch of a button. Likewise, the Bomb power will give Kirby long-range bombs to throw at his enemies, but robot Kirby will be able to spit out zippy, little walking bombs that can be used to hit tucked away switches you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to.
This not only provides a fresh twist on the handful of returning powers (most are new), but they also add another layer of depth to Planet Robobot’s puzzle solving, as most challenges require a specific power to complete. Admittedly, it’s never particularly clear if you’ll need one particular power later on, so it can sometimes feel a bit stingy when you come across a puzzle you can’t solve simply because you didn’t swallow the right ability a screen earlier. However, you soon become accustomed to spotting unique enemies – particularly when you see something sparkly at the back of the screen – and the satisfaction you feel when you do accidentally come prepared does wonders for the ego.
Planet Robobot never relies too heavily on a single power-up, either, so nothing ever outstays its welcome and it keeps everything feeling fresh no matter where or when you encounter them. For instance, occasionally Kirby will transform into a plane, turning the entire level into a brilliant, impromptu shoot-em-up. It’s a surprise the first time, a treat the second, and the last, well, you’ll have to wait and see.
If anything, it’s a shame there aren’t more of them to get stuck in with, as the whole game took me less than six hours to complete. There are still some trinkets I missed, and time attack fans will no doubt get a kick out of the Meta Knightmare Returns mode, which sees MetaKnight take on remixed story missions against the clock, and the Arena boss gauntlet, but the additional mini-game modes such as Kirby 3D Rumble and the cooperative Team Kirby Clash are pretty throwaway, leaving Planet Robobot as a whole feeling a little slender. Still, four additional game modes aren’t to be sniffed at, and they’re certainly more substantial than the extra modes in Triple Deluxe.
Ultimately, though, even Planet Robobot’s short story mode can’t detract from its overall charm and joyful level design, and its outstanding use of 3D continues to set the bar for the entire console. If anything, it’s worth it just to see its bonkers half-hour final boss fight, which easily ranks as one of the best finishers to a game I’ve ever seen. Play it, love it, thank us when you’re done – it’s a Best Buy.
|Available formats||Nintendo 3DS|