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Kirby Mass Attack: Nintendo DS' swan song?

Strength in numbers...

After Nintendo's forward-thinking E3 showing, we'll understand if you've sworn off any console that doesn't output in 3D, or that doesn't come bundled with another, smaller console-slash-controller.

But as Kirby's latest adventure ably demonstrates, there's life in the old non-extendo stylus yet.

This cute puzzle-platformer splits Kirby into ten, known collectively as a 'gaggle' or a 'virus' of Kirbys. Rather than move them individually using ten D-pads and 40 face buttons, you'll thankfully use one stylus to direct them around a variety of sidescrolling environments.

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If that brings back memories of Power Paintbrush, Kirby's last outing on DS (not counting Kirby Super Star Ultra, which remade a SNES Kirby game), you're not alone. The major changes in Mass Attack are its greater combat focus and the removal of the rainbow rope that you used to magically keep Kirby off the ground.

Your eager virus of Kirbys will float to places instead, heading wherever you direct them (by selecting the gaggle and drawing a line to their destination). If, like us, you can't draw a straight line without the aid of Diazepam and a spirit level, you can simply tap at a vague location, and the Kirbs will find their own way there.

Tap twice and they'll move faster, putting every ounce of their pink might into the action. When you tap enemies with the stylus the gang will descend in a hilarious pink dustball - just like characters do in the cartoons.

MASS HYSTERIA
We mentioned puzzles before, but reassuringly these don't involve combining two useless items, or clicking on each individual pixel until the voices start telling you to burn things again. No, these are the good kind of puzzles: simple environmental ones.

You start the game with one Kirby, but you'll gradually acquire many more, until you accrue a full gaggle. And you'll need to, in order to use their Herculean combined strength to pull giant roots from the ground or bash down trees. Kirbys can also be flung at enemies or blocks, much like stones from a slingshot.

As usual, the game will come packed with powerups, including one that turns all ten Kirbys massive. They'll also catch fire, get ensnared in a snowball and, naturally, turn into a sort of conjoined Kirbo-spaceship in a vertically scrolling shooter level.

You may not be able to control him directly, but this is Kirby back to his old tricks - minus his trademark hoover power (If that's what you're after, you might fancy looking at the far more traditional Kirby Wii).

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As with Epic Yarn, we get the feeling that there'll be more variety in one stage of Mass Attack than in most entire games. However, if Yarn's homespun simplicity and staunch lack of violence put you off, rest assured that this is looking like a far more destructively exciting game.

We'll know for certain whether HAL Laboratory's latest experiment delivers this autumn

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