When the evil ink witch Drawcia invades Dream Land and turns the world into a painting, it's up to Kirby and a magic paintbrush to set things right in this innovative touchscreen game for the Nintendo DS. Gamers have criticized Nintendo for releasing short games that play more like tech demos than actual games, but now with Kirby Canvas Curse I believe that the DS has its first full game that isn't a port or conversion from an existing title. If you enjoyed Yoshi Touch & Go but wished it had more to offer than just a few short levels, consider Kirby Canvas Curse the next time you're searching for a new video game to challenge.
Drawcia's curse has locked Kirby in the form of a ball. You, the player, wield the aforementioned magic paintbrush (the stylus) to draw a series of lines on the touchscreen to maneuver Kirby through the 2D animated world of Dream Land. Similar to Yoshi Touch & Go, you have no direct control over Kirby; he rolls up and down slopes on his own accord. The lines that you draw steer him around, allowing him to change direction, climb slopes, or slide down inclines. Unlike Yoshi, however, Kirby isn't always on the march and he can backtrack whenever you want him to.
Tapping Kirby causes him to dash forward, knocking out enemies in his path. As always in the Kirby series, Kirby can steal the powers of certain enemies and use them to his own advantage. Tapping Kirby when he has control of one of these abilities triggers the use of that power, such as the familiar wheel or the new missile. If Kirby takes a hit, he loses whatever ability he currently controls.
Making good use of the stylus is imperative in Canvas Curse. Aside from drawing paths for Kirby to follow, the stylus can be used to stun enemies with a single tap or destroy certain blocks before Kirby reaches them. A well-placed line in front of a laser or cannon will block the shot, too. Ink is limited, but quickly refills as Kirby rolls along the ground.
As I mentioned in my mini-review of Yoshi Touch & Go, Nintendo seems to be aiming for the DS to provide immersive gaming experiences. Yoshi allows players to blow on the microphone to clear away the clouds, for example. Now in Kirby players must team up with the pink puffball and draw lines using the "magic paintbrush" in an attempt to make the player a part of Kirby's world instead of just a faceless controller of events. Does the effect work? That depends on how much you're willing to buy into the immersive concept.
The main mode in Canvas Curse is Main Game, a series of seven worlds with three stages each in Kirby's journey to Drawcia's domain. The object of each stage is to reach the goal. Clearing one world opens the next. As Kirby makes progress new game modes open up. Rainbow Run places Kirby in a portion of each stage for time trials (beat the clock) and line trials (reach the goal using minimal ink). Subgames open up over time as well, challenging Kirby to complete pinball-style levels and drawing contests.
There are two hundred and fifty bronze medals hidden in the game in various places. In Main Game they are out in the open, but usually blocked by a hazard. Rainbow Run awards them based on performance, as do the three Subgames. Earned medals can be used in the Medal Swap to buy new Rainbow Run levels, new ink colors, new songs for the Sound Test, and even new playable characters that each have their own abilities. While it's possible to plow through the Main Game in under four hours, Canvas Curse's staying power lies in replaying to earn medals.
I've been enjoying Kirby Canvas Curse. The gameplay is easy to learn, the challenges are varied enough to keep me coming back for more, and Nintendo/HAL has done a magnificent job with the colorful backgrounds in each level. The art style in this game is something to see and it complements the Kirby world well. Some players may be put off by the game's cutesy nature and by the fact that Kirby is aimed at a childrens' demographic these days due to his cute pink appearance, but this is not a kiddie game. There are challenges and fun for everyone and only the most dedicated players will snag every medal and complete the game with each unlockable character. Think ink and explore Kirby Canvas Curse. You'll be glad that you did.