Kirby: Power Paintbrush
While Mario & Link has been hogging the limelight all these years on every Nintendo platform, there is another character that has consistently starred in quality titles. Since his debut in 1992, Kirby has starred in many games and while popular has always been overshadowed by the Nintendo mascots. With his DS debut the little pink puffball proves once again that he has what it takes as “Power Paintbrush” or “Canvas Curse” to American players is not only one of the first truly great games on the system but even shows Mario and Yoshi how it is done.
Power Paintbrush opens with Dreamland being turned into a painting by a witch named Drawcia. When Kirby tries to intervene, she turns him into a limbless ball. All hope is not lost however as with the Power Paintbrush (stylus) in your hands you can draw rainbow coloured paths on the screen along you to guide Kirby to safety. It is a clever concept first seen in Yoshi Touch ‘N Go but much more fleshed out and fun in this game.
While the game is essentially a platform title, you have no direct control over Kirby. Using only the stylus, you have to guide him through each level, defeating foes and avoiding environmental hazards until reaching the doorway that exist the stage. You might think that with such a simple control method, the gameplay is not very involving but nothing could be further from the truth. Drawing rainbows deplete your ink but it quickly recharges while Kirby is on solid ground. Rainbows also disappear shortly after being drawn so it takes speed and precision to guide Kirby safely.
They stylus control and touch screen combo is very responsive which prevents the game from becoming frustrating. You can tap Kirby for a special speed dash or tap enemies in order to stun them briefly. Some enemies bestow special abilities on Kirby when they are defeated but these are rarely vital to the stages completion. There are some minor puzzle solving elements as well with switches to flip and sections where you cannot draw at all. One level is even set in the dark and you have to tap lanterns, which will briefly illuminate the surroundings. Levels are rarely too long and have checkpoints but if you lose all your lives, it is back to the start. With only eight worlds that have about three levels each it is not a very long game but the longevity is enhanced by some nice extras.
Apart from the final showdown the boss battles are all mini-games and once beaten can be accessed from the main menu. Each completed level also opens up a “Rainbow Run” mode, which challenges you to finish it as quickly as possible or with the least amount of ink used. Your rewards are medals, which can also be found hidden throughout the main game. Medals can then be swapped for unlockable goodies like sound tests and different paint types. I even unlocked a new character upon completing the game and I am sure that there are a few more to discover. Therefore, while completing the main game took me less than four hours there are enough extra goodies that kept me busy for longer. Unfortunately, the game features no form of multiplayer.
The visuals show off the 2D prowess of the DS and look very polished. You will see most of the clichéd platform game themes like lava and ice but there are some abstract looking levels as well. The animations are very smooth and the characters, even enemies look very cute. All the action takes place on the bottom screen with the top screen displaying a handy map. It is useful for tracking down the hidden medals but other than that, I did not pay much attention to it. The soundtrack is very upbeat which compliments the game nicely.
As I already mentioned, the controls are very responsive although there is a bit of a learning curve to controlling the action. While drawing Kirby’s path you also have to shield him from hazards like spikes and lasers, not to mention enemies. Do not worry as the games pace isn’t too fast and the action only starts to heat up in the later levels when you encounter scrolling stages that have to be traversed a bit quicker. There are even a few underwater levels where you have to push the naturally buoyant Kirby down with your rainbow lines. While the gameplay is very innovative, the game is perhaps a tad on the easy side.
Overall, it is a great game that makes much better use of the DS technology than Yoshi Touch ‘N Go. It is also one of the first DS games to really impress me by not feeling like a Gameboy Advance title with some tacked on touch screen elements. If you want something that is different and unique then this game comes highly recommended.
*Review originally published 2005.