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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Action/Platform
Players: 1
Release Date: 6/13/05
Rated: E (Everyone)
Written by: Daniel Sims

Ever since Nintendo's DS first came out and people started playing the launch lineup there have been those who've been "dissappointed" with the lack of truly stellar games available. Other than the odd Yoshi's Touch n' Go or Feel the Magic, there wasn't really anything to show the DS's full power. At least nothing that did this in form of a full game that didn't feel like something hastily built on a gimmick. Well, another interesting DS game has come along in the form of the latest entry in the Kirby franchise. Is this the killer app that proves the DS?

The storyline of Kirby Canvas Curse, told out alomst completely through rolling text and background art, is pretty simple. When the evil sorcress Drawcia comes to Dreamland, changing it into a painting, Kirby immediately rises to confront her, but Drawcia uses her magic to remove Kirby's arms and legs, effectively turning him into a ball. However, when Drawcia leaves behind a magic paintbrush, it magically transports to you (yes you!) and you must use it (your stylus) to guide Kirby as he rolls along on his path to defeating the sorcress.

Now other than him being my favorite character in Super Smash Bros., I've never really been a big fan of Kirby. As such, other than The Crystal Shards on N64, this is really the first Kirby game that I've played actively, much less purchased. So throughout this review I really won't be able to make big comparisons between this and other Kirby games. What I do know is that with Kirby being a pink ball and all, his have usually been associated with various bright and pretty colors. Y'know, stuff befitting a "Dream Land". This of course means very colorful and artistic environments filled with creatures that could be considered "cute" with names like "Kracko", "Waddle", and "DeDeDe".

Personally I think that the environments in Canvas Curse are some of the best looking on DS. Even though the game's levels are split up into "sections", therels actually a lot of variety between the levels, even the ones sharing the same section. You may go through a stage that features a lot of machines and technology first, then right after that go through another level that's of a winter theme. Yeah, there are cliche-themed levels here, but they are spread so that they have a very good variety of occurrence. The actual foreground environment and characters may be pretty simple, but I actually like the way they "painted" the backgrounded a lot. The menus in the game are designed to be as colorful as can be and (in some cases) move around quite a bit. One amazing thing is that since Super Mario 64 DS, this is the first DS game I've played where you can completely navigate all the menus with the stylus. Actually that's kind of strange for a system like the DS! One thing I really liked though was the level select screen. All of the levels appear on a whell that you spin around with your stylus. I tell you I could spin it around for hours! Other than this, the presentation and art direction of Kriby Canvas Curse is really little more than just enough to get the Kirby world across to the player and get it across well.

Being a 2-D title on the DS, the visuals of Kirby Canvas Curse are fairly simple from the technical standpoint. The only real exception are some of the nice 3-D effects presented during the final boss. Being the game that it is, most of the attraction in the game's visuals are in the artistic area and not the technical area. So other than the pretty environments and backgrounds explained above, this game pretty much has GBA-level graphics. Now you could argue that Nintendo could have used the DS's hardware to get some 2-D effects that may not have been possible on the GBA, but as likely as this is, it wouldn't make much difference, as this is a game where visuals are not at all a big piece of the game's appeal. The animations of all the characters and other things are certainly fluid enough and the whole game pretty much runs at a constant frame rate all the way through. Canvas Curse is really the kind of game that is never really obligated to bring much on the technical side so this simplicity is understandable.

Now this is the real meat of the game. Probably making up virtually all of the total games appeal. So older people who are interested might have to loop past the game's presentation to get to this. Although this game is a platformer, you don't have direct control over your character. At least not over the character themself. However, the DS stylus - the only thing you play the game with - gives you a control over where your character goes that feels easier and more direct than in any other recent game. You see, the premise of Canvas Curse is that since Kirby is a ball that just keeps on rolling, you must use your stylus to draw lines for Kirby to roll and land on to. You tap Kirby himself to make him dash and use aquired abilities that you get from defeated enemies, and you tap enemies to stun them and obstacles to destroy them. That's it. A pretty simple premise that could very easily have ended up being just another gimmick. But luckily, this game has a lot to back it up.

First of all, this premise alone gives you a really nice amount of freedom in terms of where you want Kirby to go. As soon as I started playing I was already bringing him all the way up into the sky and back and forth through the first area rather easily. Drawing a ramp (or elevated platform) for Kirby is probably more affective than just him jumping. As I went through the first, relatively simple area, I was already striving to defeat every enemy, get every one of those little stars, and get to every secret. Why? Because this game's control scheme made me feel like I could. This whole mechanic is further reinforced by excellent level design on HAL's part that really forces some skillful use of the stylus out of you. Although I felt in control most of the time, it was not very long before I found myself facing bigger and bigger challenges despite the level of control that was involved here. Videogames that have that dual sense of making you feel in control like never before while at the same time challenging you like never before tend to get my higher reccomendations.

Now to first learn how all this really goes, the game puts you through an optional tutorial before you get started with the real game. This is probably the longest tuturial that I have seen in a Nintendo-developed game but it is quite effective in showing you what to do and allowing you to figure things out from there. Despite this though, I always wondered if they could have just put more things like indidators in the game to kind of "hint" you into what to do as you go along so that maybe no one would have to go thorugh any tutoral. But then again it's only like 5 minutes of your time before you play the game. After going through this, the only other real leads that you get in the game are the "arrows" that may point you towards things that you need to touch. But even these usually only occurr on things like canon buttons and maybe some of the really serious obstacles. All in all, given a little time, I am confident that almost anyone could learn how to play this game seeing as it does not at all involve any of the DS's buttons.

The levels in this game are all split up into worlds. Seven of them (eight if you count the last one which really just the final boss). Each one having three stages. Each of these has a great variety of obstacles and puzzles and such that all help create the game's excellent level design. This is all done with things like pinball bumpers, cannons (different kinds), turbo schutes, switches, blocks, bombs, bolders, color-coded doors, spikes, fans, lazers, and the like. All of which you can touch to switch, drive Kirby around (or into), or draw lines to shield Kirby against. These things are all very well placed to create levels that require some of the most skilled use of the stylus on the DS yet. You will be required to draw Kirby over bridges, up (and down) ramps, and through loops while at the same time being ware of enemies and trying to get to the end of the level, not to mention finding secrets.

Another element of the levels is the enemies. Other than the powers Kirby aquires from them (a Kirby game staple) after defeating them, there isn't much to them. There are ones that walk, ones that jump, ones that swim, and ones that fly. The ones with the special abilities actually aren't as big a part of the game as you may think. Maybe once or twice in each level you may getto a part where defeating an enemy and aquiring his power may be very helpful but not at all essential. However, the various powers you get are still pretty cool. The first one you encounter is a beam-like ability. Then there's a "wheel". After this you go on to do things like turn into a snowball, a rock, a spikeball thingy, a ball of fire, and a balloon, among other things. All stuff to help you for a moment, but defeating enemies and absorbing their powers does not at all feel like an essensial part of the game.

In the middle of some levels you may encounter a "mini-boss" like puzzle. These may not take very long but they can be quite challenging and they differ from each other a lot. After you finish each whole world go advance to the "Boss GAme" where you must choose between three bosses , each one being a big puzzle in iteslf. One where you much draw trampoline-like lines, one where you must win a race, and one where you must draw different designs. Each one is fairly difficult. However, since there are three bossses and 7 worlds, you must fight each boss twice and each one gets harder the second time around.

The only thing about the gameplay in this game that felt especially odd was the fac that (at first at least) I didn't look at the top screen too much (all the action is on the bottom screen). All that's on the top screen is a sort of map of your surroundings (only useful for possibly plotting routes and spotting medals) and your healthbar as well as a display for your lives and stars. Now depending on who you are, the map's usefulness is questionable but I guess the top screen is the only place you could have put the healthbar.

With a nice, innovative and simple new control scheme that feels very direct and natural, plus amazing level design to back it up, the gameplay scheme of Kirby Canvas Curse is one that makes you feel more in control than ever before while at the same time challenging you like never before.

The Audio presentation in Kirby Canvas Curse is naturally pretty simple. It's all MIDI music that's really just retooled versions of some classic Kirby music (that I had never heard before this game). Each theme of level has it's own music and I have to admit that some of it is pretty catchy. I also like the little medly played as you finish each stage. The sound effects in the game are miminal. There's a sound for you drawing the rainbow, one for you stunning/killing enemies, and some more for minor puzzle effects like switches, door, and explosions. The only "voice" sample in the game is Drawcia's evil laugh I believe. I probably won't go out and download any of the music in the game, but it is pretty nice as it fits the Kirby world and sounds fairly catchy. By the way, be sure to check out a Kirby Remix Collaboration called Rise of the Star. Find it at

Even after you've defeat Drawcia, the game's not anywhere near over yet. When I beat the game, it still said I was only around 20% done (one thing in games that actually kind of ticks me off). With the extra characters involved, you'll probably have to go through the game at least two more times with the extra effects of those characters. While you are going through the game, you will have to find these "Medals". Three hidden each level and 250 overall. Some are quite out of the open, but others will take some serious drawing to even sight. On top of this, you must also go through Rainbow Run, which is a combination of time trial and something called "Line Trial". Time Trial is basically just going through levels as fast as possible. Line Trial on the other hand, is where you must get through a level while drawing rainbows as little as you possibly can. Going through these also involve medals so you'll be doing this a bunch too if you want to get everything in the game. After this, there's Medal Swap, where you actually spend those medals to gain unlockables. Stuff like extra health, more tracks for the sound test, different designs for the lines you draw, and much more. The only thing this game doesn't have for the replay is multiplayer, the lack of which is probably the game's only major shortcoming. But I honestly couldn't imagine what kind of multiplayer they could have put into a game like this. To put it short, this game will probably last you more than a dozen hours.

Closing Comments:
Kirby Canvas Curse is probably a game that should have launched with the DS hardware because it definitely shows that the DS touch screen is actually worth something. That it can actually bring interesting new kinds of gameplay without sacrificing everything on gimmicks. It uses the DS's innovation to create an excellently designed game that feels new, direct, free, and challenging at the same time. Kirby Canvas Curse is probably the first legitamite game on the Nintendo DS.


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