It's been in development, in a variety of forms, for over a decade, but it's hard to see Kirby's Adventure as anything other than Nintendo and HAL Laboratory's response to Epic Yarn's fan reaction. We loved Good-Feel's familiar-yet-innovative knitted opus, but if you ventured onto the Internet at around this time last year, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was responsible for Bird Flu, the Iraq War, and Jedward combined.
Whether this was due to the game's relatively forgiving difficulty level, or the sacrilegious removal of Kirby's inhalation and hovering techniques, we can't say, but it's now a year later and those issues have been 'fixed' for Kirby's Adventure. This is the most traditional in the series since the days of the SNES - actually, it's somehow even more traditional than that, recalling Kirby as you remember him, rather than Kirby as he really was.
Gone is the hand-crafted jumble-sale style of Epic Yarn, replaced with a less ambitious but still stonkingly pretty interpretation of his old stomping ground Dreamland. As you might expect, this has been sectioned into a handful of themed worlds, with a number of short stages and a boss fight lurking in each. Unlike the charming and amusing story of Epic Yarn, Adventure's scant narrative - you have to find the scattered pieces of a crashed spaceship, for some reason - doesn't do much to draw you in, but at least it doesn't get in your way.
As Kirby's remembered to pack his sucking and blowing moves this time, much of the game revolves around these returning abilities. In this respect at least, Adventure is a success, introducing bigger, better and weirder forms at a steady rate. As in past games, he transforms by inhaling specific enemies and then cloning their abilities; this lets you power past tricky obstacles to find more hidden energy doodads, which in turn unlock new minigames and so on in the spaceship hub. One minute you're slashing at bats while cosplaying as Link, the next you're obliterating much of the environment with a giant firewall of death. The animations are spot-on, and the possibilities for destruction are as frequent as they are satisfying - we've no problem at all with Adventure's hugely varied selection of Halloween costumes. It's the rest of it that manages to fall short.
Where Epic Yarn reimagined the classic 16-bit platform game as a sort of interactive woolly jumper, reinvigorating it with new ideas and situations the second they tumbled from Good-Feel's talented brains, Adventure relies entirely on established features and mechanics, which it unashamedly inhales from other games. The majority of its structure, and content, is taken from the early Kirby and Mario titles. An understandable decision, given the game's status as a nostalgic throwback, but a moderately insulting one when you consider how innovative those early titles were. Adventure's additions to the well-ironed formula - chiefly barrel-cannons and four-way multiplayer - are taken from Donkey Kong Country and New Super Mario Bros Wii, respectively. There's nothing in this game you haven't seen somewhere before - usually being done better in the process.
While the difficulty level seems a tad higher than Epic Yarn's, the game is still, for the most part, a cakewalk solo. Up to three other players can leap in at a moment's notice, becoming Meta Knight, King Dedede, a spear-wielding Waddle Dee, or even an alternate version of the Kirbster himself. Supposedly, enemies scale in quantity and beatability to suit, but if the game is more challenging with additional players, it's because of the utter chaos that ensues from having four of you bounding about on-screen at once. Lives are shared, so if some idiot repeatedly falls to their death (sorry about that), you're going to have to start the entire stage again.
For a game supposedly built with multiple characters in mind, it's remarkably weighted in Kirby's favour. He's the only one that can inhale or copycat enemies, which is approximately half the fun of the game. Aside from a bit of the old 'carry the lamp while I whack stuff' borrowed, again, from New Super Mario Bros on Wii, there are very few situations that make the most of the increased number of players. The exceptions - bosses and hidden collectibles, which are far easier to destroy and uncover, respectively - only serve to undermine the integrity of the single-player game.
For all its faults, Kirby's Adventure is a perfectly serviceable 16-bit-style platform game, albeit one that falls short when measured against greats like Yoshi's Island, Super Mario World or Donkey Kong Country. If you're in the market for an old-fashioned, robust, but fairly workmanlike platformer, you could do a lot worse, but we found it disappointing to play a game so mired in the past - not after being spoiled by the wit, imagination, and endless, fluffy charm of Epic Yarn. It's taken over ten years, and several cancelled projects, to get here, but this is one Adventure that wasn't worth the wait.
Should have been more inventive, more memorable and more important. After we were spoiled by the beautiful Epic Yarn last year, Adventure highlights the dangers of appealing to a very vocal minority.
- Perfectly solid throughout
- Graphically, it's an absolute beauty
- A total lack of innovation from start to finish
- Massively, game-hurtingly shallow