Note: Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush - or Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, as it is known in the US - is out in Europe today, so here's our review of the US release from February.
Kirby And The Rainbow Paintbrush is a good game with a weird problem.
The problem: if you play it, you most likely won't be able to appreciate its graphics. This isn't because The Rainbow Paintbrush's claymation-style graphics are too beautiful for your primitive senses to comprehend. No, you probably would look at this game and think it's beautiful. You just might be incapable of seeing the game's graphics on your TV, because you will be focused on the graphics on the controller you're holding in your hand.
See, this is one of those Wii U games that displays the "same" graphics to your TV and to the screen in the console's signature GamePad controller. And—this is key—it's a game played entirely with stylus-based touch controls.
You have to tap Kirby to make him move.
You draw lines to serve as the chutes and ladders by which Kirby will navigate the game's 28 enemy-filled, obstacle-laden stages.
It is highly, highly likely that you will find that you can do this best by looking at the graphics you're touching, not by touching the GamePad while watching the TV in front of you. As a result, you may, like me, play the game almost exclusively on the GamePad. You may only to briefly look up at the TV to lament the much more beautiful version of the game's graphics on your TV.
Here, I made a two-minute video for you to show you what the issue is:
This central problem to Rainbow Paintbrush is a shame. It's a game that doesn't quite fit its hardware, which was the same problem that plagued last year's 3DS Kirby game, Kirby Triple Deluxe, and was only remedied with the introduction of a new model of Nintendo's handheld, the New 3DS. Triple Deluxe's issue was that it was a sidescroller designed around the idea of multiple planes of action, with interactions between the foreground and background accentuated by the system's optional stereoscopic graphics. But the game also involved moments of motion control that required players to move the 3DS system. On the original 3DS, you couldn't really keep the game's 3D graphics in focus while moving the system in the air. The New 3DS, however, uses face-tracking to maintain a clear stereoscopic image while a 3DS user is moving the system. Playing Triple Deluxe on that system is a drastic improvement.
In other words, the last Kirby game had a design that the hardware it was made for couldn't deal with. The same is true for the new Kirby game and at least begs for the introduction of a New Wii U GamePad that would show Rainbow Paintbrush's graphics in the resolution they deserve.
But... what about the game?
Oh, it's fun!
The developers at HAL have taken the concept behind the wonderful 2005 DS game Kirby's Canvas Curse and re-introduced it to the oft-experimental line of Kirby games. As I've said, the key mechanic here is that you draw lines for Kirby to ride:
Canvas Curse melded the line-drawing idea with the core Kirby concept of absorbing special abilities. That's been dropped for this game, either dumbing things down or making things more pure, depending on your perspective.
It'd be tough to call the game simple, though, because even its fairly easy first five worlds (of seven) are full of hidden stars and treasure chests. This is one of those games you can mostly breeze through or one that you can poke through, trying to find the hidden loot. Set your own difficulty level, more or less.
By worlds six and seven, however, the game will prove legit-tough for anyone. Here's a section in which you have to control two Kirbys at once.
The game tends to be even tougher in its marvelous challenge mode, which consists of more than 40 levels, most of which consist of quartets of single-screen challenges, each to be completed in just 15 seconds.
Here's one of the easy ones:
Challenge mode is pure Nintendo-style gameplay. Forget the graphics. Don't look for story. Recognise the challenge. Know your moveset. Master the controls. Clear the room. This is the kind of great 2D gameplay you get from old Nintendo games and that spawned the likes of Super Meat Boy.
You can play the challenges in co-op. That makes them easier. Everything is easier in co-op, of course. You can play the whole game in co-op, actually, with the second player using a Wii Remote to control Waddle-Dee, who can, run, jump, attack and stand on the lines the Kirby player draws. The co-op player also has the luxury of looking at the game's graphics on the TV, since their controls are button based. Lucky them!
Here's some co-op from the main part of the game:
At the end of the day, we've got a fun game that can be rushed through or that can last completionists a long time, a game that'll amuse an amateur gamer but also challenge a proficient one.
It's also damn cute:
Consider it recommended, if you don't mind getting a console game you can't really play on your TV.