Kirby: Triple Deluxe
HAL hasn’t made a 3DS game since AR freebie Face Raiders, but Kirby: Triple Deluxe shows it’s lost none of its infatuation with the handheld’s featureset. It’s the first platformer since Super Mario 3D Land to make you want to nudge that 3D slider up and leave it there, with intricate layered worlds that long to be given every bit of depth the device can muster. Spring-loaded hands erupt from the screen, Kirby hops on stars to warp from foreground to background, and enemies untether themselves from mundane 2D paths.
It could be tacky, and is at times, but Triple Deluxe’s Story mode is suffused with a rare vibrancy. Its six worlds whip you from meadows to dusty plains, then into subversive mirror-backed funfairs, all on the path to a castle with huge gemstones for platforms. Even fire and ice are pepped up by HAL’s exuberance. Kirby has new copy abilities, too, and continues to make simple inputs work hard. He’s joyous to control here: flowing, punchy and characterful. Triple Deluxe is still sedate, but its gamefeel is just so and Kirby’s a powerhouse.
He might even be too strong. The game starts out trivially easy, at least for adults, and only gets remotely threatening in late-game boss battles. HAL would rather stretch its grown-up fans with the light puzzles and Hypernova Kirby is used to gulp down enemies many times your size, in puzzles and even boss fights. The power’s limited to prescribed areas, but slapstick animations and visual flourishes stop these sections getting stale timed challenges that protect its collectibles, it seems. The former are great, being easy to decipher but often demanding in execution, testing but never frustrating.
Since bosses are your only real opportunity to show off your powers, though, it’s disappointing to see them reused in late-game boss rushes. The final world feels rushed too – a best-of tour that stretches smile-raising novelties thin. The inventive multistage final encounter more than makes up for it, even if it seems pitched above the young audience the rest of the game courts.
The story, however, is only one mode of five. Two are unlocked after the credits, and add longevity to an already lengthy adventure. The others – Smash Bros- lite arena brawler Kirby Fighters, and rhythm-platformer Dedede’s Drum Dash – are less assured. With a handful of cramped stages, chaotic items and imbalanced movesets, Fighters doesn’t feel worth gathering a group for. Drum Dash blends beat matching with crunchy tests of timing and platforming skill, but while it’s diverting, it’s over too quickly given the learning curve.
Perhaps it’s telling that the icons for Fighters and Drum Dash on the menu are that bit smaller than Story, suggesting HAL knows full well what its main attraction is. If the energy spent on them had been used to hone the tale’s final hours, this might have been the best Kirby yet. As it is, his 3DS debut is too uneven to be essential, but too charming for fans to miss.