When one plays a Kirby game, one expects to find certain things. Cute design choices. Chirpy music. Kirby being a goddamn glutton. Each and every Kirby game has had these, and has resulted in a formula that’s stood the test of time since Kirby’s Adventure on the Game Boy. That’s not to say that Kirby hasn’t tried a fair few new things. Kirby’s Air Ride is one of the more underappreciated racing games (and one that I still need for my Gamecube library) and Kirby’s Epic Yarn was one of the most creative and adorable games to come out of the Wii U. So, we have Kirby: Planet Robobot. Does it fit into this family of bold reimaginings, or is it doomed to rinse and repeat the 2D platformer formula?
If you’ve never played a Kirby game, here’s how they usually go: You play as Kirby, a pink blob thing who is also the galaxy’s greatest warrior. Your primarily ability is swallowing enemies and gaining their powers. Their rich, tasty powers. Kirby can jump from being a ninja, to an archer, to an ice queen, and back again. He can also float and make adorable noises. The games are usually not too difficult, but are charming enough for you to not care. Got it? Alright, cool.
Let’s discuss the box art. It’s become a running trend for Kirby to look mad as Hell on western box arts, but this time Kirby looks like he’s having a great time in a mech. It’s not a robot. Whatever it is (it’s a fucking mech), it provides some of the most fun I’ve had with a Kirby game. Kirby’s ability to swallow enemies and gain their powers carries over to his big ol’ pink mech, swapping his trademark black hole of a mouth for a scanner that presumably breaks enemies down to a molecular level as painfully as possible. Good stuff. The abilities that the mech can acquire are exactly what you’d expect from a Kirby game, and all fit in perfectly with the game’s level design. There are over 20 different abilities available to Kirby and his mech, but the mech’s abilities are what take center stage. Giant swords, boombox soundwaves, a helicopter blade that both elevates Kirby and damages enemies, Tesla coils that zap foes into oblivion and loads more. Planet Robobot gets most of its fun from these new abilities; the room for experimentation allows for a greater variety of gameplay experiences and level design tricks. While the mech does demand that you trade agility for strength, the way that each level is laid out never makes this feel like an upgrade or a downgrade. Each level, no matter if Kirby’s naked or not, still feels like you belong in it. Each stage manages to never feel boring or repetitive, and that’s something that hasn’t changed from Kirby‘s classic formula. The mech also offers side-scrolling shooter levels, in the style of Gradius or Zero Wing. These were a lot of fun, but were over far too quickly.
Yeah! Fuck trees!
Even the universe’s greatest warrior looks both ways.
You progress through the game as you would in a traditional 2D platformer, but boss fights are blocked off by collectible code cubes. You’ll need to gather a certain amount before you can fight each world’s boss. As a passionate opponent of forced backtracking, I was against this on principle but I found myself getting all the cubes in each level anyway because I’m just an entitled little baby who needs to beat a level on their first try. Some cubes are easier to obtain than others, and some even require a certain powerup to access. The level design comes into play here as well, often offering alternate paths to the final goal with a code cube inside. The code inside? Why, that sounds like it’s time to talk amiibo support! Planet Robobot is compatible with pretty much every amiibo under the sun, and each one gives you differing abilities and (occasionally) costumes.
Planet Robobot‘s visuals are what you’d expect from a Kirby game. Excellent use of a variety of bright colours, playful effects and animation, and the adorable character design. What separates this game from its predecessors is how much it relies on the mechanical. Normally, the introduction of machines to an otherwise machine-free world results in a bit of culture shock. Planet Robobot tsk tsks at your silly preconceptions and gives you some of the most well-designed robots I’ve seen in a video game. The mechanical marvels never feel out of place or jarring, but a natural extension of the game’s world. Even when the mechanical isn’t hostile, it’s designed with such a charm and cheek that it only makes the game more enjoyable. You can even collect stickers that you use to customise the mech in between levels, making the mech just as adorable as you want it to be. Robotic versions of classic Kirby bosses are a nice touch as well. The music and SFX are just as fluffy, perfectly complimenting the clean graphics. The game runs well on both the New 3DS and original model, too. The 3D is used very well, with many obstacles and environments benefiting a lot from the added depth. I never use my system’s 3D, as I don’t like how most games utilise it, but Planet Robobot convinced me to leave it on. That’s just how much nicer it looked.
“But together, we form a mighty faggot!”
Don’t theorise, accessorise!
As for the game’s faults, there are a couple. The first is the game’s alternate modes. Team Kirby Clash is a game mode where four players (or you and several AI “friends”) over wireless connection take on class-based roles and fight the game’s bosses. Kirby 3D Rumble is a top-down game where Kirby must eliminate all enemies in the shortest amount of moves. Both of these modes didn’t really feel substantial enough to warrant continued play, but the third extra mode is the return of Meta Knightmare Returns, which is the third in the mini-series of time trial Hard modes. Playing as Meta Knight denies you the variety of powerups that Kirby has at his disposal, and gives you fewer moves in general. But those looking for a harder experience should find it enjoyable. The second fault, funnily enough, is how difficult Planet Robobot isn’t. Yes, I expected this level of difficulty from a Kirby game, but this was a prime chance for the series to expand its horizons just that little bit more. The game’s length could have been a little longer, too. But, as it stands, these faults don’t bring down what’s essentially a very good game.
Holo-Ice, Holo-Ice, Baby…
This game doesn’t cloud your judgement.
Kirby: Planet Robobot is precisely what you expect from a Kirby game, and a whole lot more. Tight controls, gorgeous aesthetic, and an overall enjoyable title. The length and difficulty makes this game perfect to play over a responsibility-free weekend. Worth the price tag? Absolutely. Worthy of the Kirby name? You bet your pink ass it is.