Kirby Star Allies review: A love song to all things Kirby

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Kirby may not be the best known of Nintendo’s video game characters but he’s an iconic mainstay nonetheless. Many of you will have made your first acquaintance with the pink puffball through the Super Smash Bros series of games; older players might remember him from various titles on the Game Boy series of handhelds. Regardless of where you first crossed paths with Nintendo’s spherical oddity, however, it’s safe to say a Kirby game has rarely set the world on fire – outside Japan, at least.

Kirby Star Allies, his first outing on Nintendo Switch, and first console title since 2015’s Rainbow Curse, won’t change that fact. However, for all those people who’ve loved Kirby over the years and appreciated every solid entry HAL Laboratory has developed since his first appearance in 1992, Kirby Star Allies will be well worth investigating and represents the zenith of everything that makes Kirby games so engaging.

Kirby Star Allies review: Better with friends

If you were expecting some sort of revolutionary Kirby game that bends the franchise template, prepare yourself for disappointment. But what Kirby Star Allies lacks in innovation it makes up for in sheer brio.

It takes the 2D side-scrolling platforming the series is best known for and chucks in a tonne of hidden secrets, seemingly simple – yet devilish – level design and an all-star cast of characters to play as. It’s as pure as you’ll find Kirby but with added bells and whistles that make for an enjoyable romp when you’re on the bus or train or simply fancy a quick blast of multiplayer fun.

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In fact, I’d go so far as say that, unless you’re an absolute die-hard Kirby fan, playing this game solo isn’t something you’ll find yourself doing for hours on end. Sure, it’s interesting enough to hook you in but without friends around it’s not quite as enjoyable as it could be.

Playing solo means three of your team of four characters are computer controlled. You’ll only get access to Kirby, which is no bad thing thanks to his ability to absorb other character attributes, but it does mean each level plays out in a similar way.

With human companions, it no longer feels like such a slog. Each time you recruit a character to your cause, a human player can take control by simply picking up a Joy-Con. The drop-in, drop-out nature of play suits the Switch perfectly and offers a pleasing change of pace. There’s no screwing your teammates over as in New Super Mario Bros or Super Mario 3D World, but it’s decidedly more fun playing with friends than venturing in alone.

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Star Allies is built with cooperation in mind. There are numerous puzzles that require just the right combination of attire, equipment and companion, be that dousing a sword-wielding Kirby’s blade in flames or ice to overcome a challenge or simply providing shelter from rain so flame Kirby’s fireballs aren’t extinguished.

It’s not until the latter half of the game that these puzzles become a challenge – the optimum arrangement is usually signposted nearby and the required enemy types usually reside in the same room but it’s still more fun to solve with friends than allowing the computer do the heavy lifting.

Kirby Star Allies review: A reminder of what makes Kirby, Kirby

Despite the niggles with solo play, Kirby Star Allies isn’t anywhere near as bad as you probably think it is. In fact, it’s a glorious celebration of the last 25 years of Kirby games.

As this is the first time we’ve actually seen a proper Kirby game in high definition (the Wii U’s Rainbow Curse wasn’t traditional Kirby game) it’s hard not to be sucked in by its charms. Seeing King Dedede, Meta Knight and Whispy Woods in glorious high definition should be more than enough to keep series fans happy and entice newcomers as well.

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Kirby’s core gameplay of platform jumping, enemy eating and chaotic boss brawls still holds up 25 years on and it’s great to see and recruit classic characters like Waddle Dee and Poppy Bros. Jr. Long-time fans get to explore familiar territories with fresh coats of paint and additional content downloads add classic characters such as Rick the hamster and Coo the owl.

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Kirby Star Allies review: Verdict

As far as platformers go, Kirby Star Allies is wonderfully pure in its conception. Personally, I’d have liked something a bit closer to the wonderfully charming Kirby’s Epic Yarn, but Star Allies certainly scratches the itch for a multiplayer platformer.

It may not be much more than a nostalgia play for long-time Kirby fans wanting something new to sink their teeth into but in the absence of a New Super Mario Bros on Nintendo Switch keen platformer fans might just want to give it a whirl. Just don’t expect it to shatter your world.

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