I have personally always seen Kirby as an easier Mario platformer. While it is fun, it never pushes the boundaries of what is it is comfortable doing. You control Kirby through a series of stages, suck in enemies and turn their powers into your powers. The formula has not changed in ages and while there has been an Epic Yarn version and a playdough one, the game's mechanics have always been the same. Kirby Star Allies tries hard to make things a little more complicated but a few hours into the game things are pretty much the same. The game relies heavily on Kirby recruiting friends to help him through each level and powering each other up with different elements add a new layer of depth to both the game's puzzles and combat.
After a journey through the colourful and gorgeous Dream World that act as the introductory stages to the game, Kirby faces off against the infamous King Dedede who has stolen all the fruit in the land. A quick battle ensues and after you beat him you discover that perhaps the longtime villain was actually not to blame for these dastardly deeds. Rather, King Dedede has succumbed to a Dark Curse that causes him to lose control. Kirby knows he needs to set off on a journey to save the other creatures across the world from sharing the same fate even if that means he needs to punch them a few times in the face to knock some sense into them.
What makes Kirby Star Allies so unique is in its approach to the new Copy Abilities. Up to four players can be on screen at any time and these players are replaced with remarkably smart A.I if you are playing alone or with one friend. Kirby, who is the player one, can throw hearts at any enemy on the screen which then “befriends” them turning them into his companions. Any ability that can be copied by Kirby swallowing him can be turned into a friend and these A.Is then fight alongside Kirby and his team.
Where the game truly shines is in its ability to power up each other with your abilities. A sword can be imbued with the power of fire, electricity, wind or ice and it becomes more powerful. The powerups then go beyond that as they are cleverly integrated into puzzles in the stage too. A rope that needs to be burnt from a distance requires a boomerang sword that has to be on fire for it to catch or a spark plug needs to be hit with an electric attack to open a switch. It goes even further to require clever combinations of weapons and these elements to unlock specific areas. Ice blocks need to be melted with water or waterfalls need to be frozen to get across.
The A.I works extremely well, something I was worried about when I first started the game. It knows what ability to use and how to use it when the time comes. Just standing near a rope will trigger your sword-wielding companion to slice it and standing under a waterfall with a companion who has the umbrella power will naturally let him open it to stop the water going down.
With that being said, these puzzles are not very hard to get around and often the powerup you need is right next to the puzzle you are trying to solve. Kirby Star Allies never challenges you in any way with these puzzles but I suppose it is what Kirby games are known for. Just don't expect to be stuck brainstorming a solution for these.
The game also features a new mechanic called Friend Abilities which allows you to link up with your A.I controlled friends or your actual friends to create cool objects. A wheel made up of your all holding hands and feet, and even a bridge too. While these are great, they are only available in specific predetermined stages and they are never fully realized as much as I hoped. I would have loved to have a full level dedicated to solving puzzles using my friend bridge but alas the experience lasts a couple of minutes and it not challenging at all.
Levels are cleverly designed in Kirby Star Allies and we all know Nintendo has a flair for these sort of things. They are vibrant and easy to get through but the creativity of each stage is on another level. The woods, a volcanic core, and even a frozen stage that sees you being blown around the level as you try and collect stars that rewards you with hearts. No two levels are the same and the attention to detail is remarkable.
All this is backed up by some rather fantastic enemies and powers you can obtain from them. Every new enemy I saw gave me an exciting sense of discovery as I could not wait to see what ability it would unlock and then again I was excited to see how I would be able to power this ability up with my friends. It was something new in the series and the combinations and sheer amount of detail in each ability's combat style and variations was outstanding. We also get those really cool ones like a chef that is kind of like a once off ability. Holding down the up button will throw all your friends in the pot and cook food to heal your health. These abilities were great to see in action.
It is also important to mention that you can play the entire game without any extra players or friends but it will be hard to fully experience it. You will also need to disband each friend after getting past an area that requires you to have four of them. When I say “friend,” I say A.I or real ones. It is also cool to have a full party when going into a boss fight, another fantastic part of Kirby Star Allies. Each boss fight was exciting and challenging as you are all pounding at the enemy with you powered up abilities. It's really quite a show.
Kirby Star Allies takes everything it teaches you and flows quite nicely into its features and levels. Levels are filled with secrets to find and puzzle pieces to collect. These abilities are used to get to them and through them. Puzzles pieces unlock cool artworks in the game to gaze upon and I made it my goal to make sure I found all of them as well as the rare glowing puzzle piece that is found once in each stage. These are vital to unlocking the middle of the board. You can also use some Amiibos to gain puzzle pieces too which helps speed up the process.
Apart from the main game which spans across a series of worlds each with a handful of stages, there are mini games to play with friends too. These are terrible to play alone after you have tried them once or twice so I recommend you get your most skilled players in and test their might to see how fast they can chop down a tree or how far they can hit a meteor plummeting to Earth. It just goes to show that Kirby Star Allies is best played with real people and it is great thanks to the Switch's ability to share one set of Joy-Cons across two people.
Kirby Star Allies has one downfall and that is how easy it is. I ended the main game with close to one hundred lives and I probably died twice from falling into a gap. It does not challenge you with anything crazy and makes for a casual game that everyone can pick up and play. Its emphasis on the powerups works very well and when you add in another player or two, the game really gets a lot more fun to play.
This review was based off a review code provided to us by Nintendo