As a longtime Nintendo fan, I’ve had countless opportunities to explore colorful, exotic worlds that put most other games to shame. Growing up, though, I never paid too much attention to the Kirby games; they just never grabbed me the way Mario or Zelda did. That is, until the release of Kirby’s Epic Yarn on the Wii. Epic Yarn has a reputation for being a “baby game” thanks to its simplistic controls and almost nonexistent challenge level, but it’s one of my all time favorite games. Thanks to its tactile, yarn-filled world that is just unbelievably adorable and its unforgettable soundtrack that I still can’t stop talking about, it’s nothing but a treat from start to finish. I honestly can’t think of another game that makes me smile more.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse takes the torch first carried by Epic Yarn and runs with it, featuring a fully clay-mated world that feels even more “touchable” than its 2010 predecessor. Now, even though Rainbow Curse is a clear successor to the 2005 DS game Kirby: Canvas Curse, I’ve secretly (perhaps selfishly) wished it would play like Epic Yarn. And that’s probably why I was ultimately let down when I finally got to play it. Still, my own personal expectations aside, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse rolls in the right direction in most ways that count.

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Controls are precise even though I wish I could just use those buttons and d-pad

Rainbow Curse features the exact same stylus-controlled gameplay as Canvas Curse, meaning you’ll never find yourself in direct control of Kirby during your 7-8 hour clay-through. Instead, you’ll find yourself crouched over your Gamepad, drawing rainbow colored pathways with your stylus that Kirby latches onto and rolls around on. I’ve never been a fan of this kind of indirect control, and the first 2 or 3 levels were honestly a bit of a struggle for me. Yes, the stylus is precise and easy to use, but I just kept thinking, “why can’t I use the joystick?” But after a couple hours with the game, I finally stopped wishing for what wasn’t, and accepted Rainbow Curse for what it is. And I started to appreciate the beauty and challenge of guiding Kirby along the perfect line. My initial techniques with the stylus were quick, ugly lines just to propel Kirby up a ledge or over a bad guy. But by the end of the game, I was a pro with the stylus, drawing slowly and with precision. It was a nice challenge to overcome, but I still think the game would be more enjoyable with a more traditional control scheme.

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The craft and care put into the visuals is outstanding

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse features quite possibly the most colorful and creative Nintendo world to date. Everything — from the flowers and mushrooms that dot the landscape to the Waddle-Dees and Gordos that totter around in it — has been handcrafted with real clay, and it shows. Numerous times throughout my playthrough, I had to stop playing just to admire everything. Unfortunately, the actual gameplay requires complete focus on the Gamepad, meaning you’re usually only able to see the graphics on the lower resolution Gamepad screen… which is frequently uobstructed by the stylus. It’s truly a bummer to see such a beautiful presentation hindered by the gameplay, but at least it gives you an excuse to watch somebody else play for awhile.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse features amiibo support, although it’s pretty lackluster. The only thing scanning your Kirby, Meta Knight or King Dedede amiibo does is grant you a limited power-up, within the current level, and you can only use it once per day. Nintendo has been pretty underwhelming with amiibo support in their games so far, but amiibo are relatively new so I’m hoping we get some more concrete uses for them in the future. The in-game collectibles are essentially digital amiibo, featuring gorgeous clay models of all the in-game characters and baddies. You can also jam out to the game’s music player, which has not only the entire soundtrack from Rainbow Curse, but classics from almost every game in the Kirby franchise. Bonus!

Creating your own platforms and paths can be very strategic and satisfying

Creating your own platforms and paths can be very strategic and satisfying

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse should have been defined by its gorgeous visuals, but ultimately, I spent too much time wishing I could get around the controls to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the game. In some ways, I got more enjoyment out of watching my wife play it than in playing it myself. I understand that Nintendo needs to continue creating games that justify the Gamepad, but hardware should always be employed for the betterment of the game, and that’s just not the case here. Overall, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is an enjoyable addition to the stable of “experiments” Nintendo has used Kirby to promote, with unrivaled visuals and a solid soundtrack full of relaxing tunes. If you’re a fan of the pink puffball and don’t mind a game that’s fully controlled by the stylus, it’s definitely worth checking out.

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Invisible Gamer’s review of Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is based on final review code provided to us by Nintendo. The game came out on on Friday, February 20th, 2015.