Platform: Wii U
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a claymation-esque side-scrolling platformer in which the player guides Kirby using a rainbow paintbrush. While Rainbow Curse has a lot of good things going for it, it also has some problems.
One day, Kirby and Waddle Dee are hanging out on their home, Planet Popstar, when a mysterious hole appears in the sky. Through it, the evil Claycia steals all of Popstar’s colors. Elline, a rainbow fairy paintbrush, rescues Kirby and Waddle Dee by giving them their colors back, and the three of them go through the hole in the sky on a mission to restore Planet Popstar to its normal, colorful self.
The game is broken into seven worlds, each of which has three levels and one boss fight. In each world, Kirby encounters all kinds of adorable bad guys and collectable treasure chests. Kirby can also collect secret diary entries by Elline, which tell the story of how Claycia—her onetime best friend—became evil and “totally selfish.”
This is where things get a little hit and miss. Rainbow Curse’s main gameplay mechanic requires that you use the Wii U’s GamePad and stylus to draw paths for Kirby, assisting him as he rolls around. You can tap on Kirby’s body to make him speed up or attack bad guys, but almost all of his movement is dictated by the rainbow line painted by your stylus. None of the buttons on your GamePad work, nor do the camera, microphone, or motion controls. The screen on your GamePad displays exactly what is shown on the TV, and nothing more.
I found the rainbow line to be incredibly finicky. Kirby almost never behaved like I wanted him to, and I found that simple tasks like sitting still or going in a straight line were often aggravatingly difficult. Occasionally, the mechanic worked really well, and these moments were always super satisfying. For example, in a couple of levels, Kirby is riding a gondola, and by drawing lines you can change his path. These levels are awesome. But most of the time I found I was more frustrated than satisfied.
Also, because Kirby’s controls took up so much of my attention, I never bothered to look at the TV screen, and instead stared solely at the GamePad in my lap. Yes, Rainbow Curse uses the Wii U’s unique second screen feature, but it does not really use the Wii U to its full advantage, which is disappointing.
Further, my intense focus on Kirby made it really hard for me to enjoy the game’s co-op mode (two to four players). In co-op, players two through four control differently colored Waddle Dees. When playing as Kirby on the GamePad, I would often draw lines which accidentally trapped Waddle Dee. The game’s camera followed Kirby, not Waddle Dee, so if a player other than Kirby ever wandered off screen, or (more likely) if Kirby ever started to roll away and I couldn’t catch him in time, that player would be automatically transported away from whatever they were doing and forcefully moved back onto the screen. Sometimes this worked just fine, other times it was really annoying. The Waddle Dees existed solely as a support team for Kirby, and were given very little freedom to explore the colorful world on their own.
There were some good things about co-op mode. For one, players could join and then leave again at any time, much like Super Mario 3D World. And it didn’t matter that the Waddle Dees had only two health bars, because if they ever lost them both, those players could get back in the game by repeatedly tapping buttons on their Wii remotes.
Overall, though, the learning curve for this game was too steep, and the payoff was too small. With less than 30 levels, I hit the end credits way sooner than I expected, and going back to replay every level collecting (admittedly adorable) bonus goodies wasn’t enough motivation for me.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is rated E for Everyone for mild cartoon violence. In select levels, Kirby can turn into a submarine, a spaceship, and a tank and fire bullets at his enemies. The Waddle Dees can throw spears at enemies. There is, however, absolutely no gore and the bad guys are not scary.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is adorable to look at but exasperating to play. For a game that looks so incredibly kid-friendly, it’s surprisingly hard. While I was never frustrated enough to walk away, I don’t expect I’ll be revisiting this title any time soon.
Watch our Let’s Play video of Kirby and the Rainbow Curse: