by Matthew Thompson
Kirby games generally come in two flavors. You have the traditional adventures that take after the 1995 NES classic and the more experimental outings and spinoffs. In the latter, you may find yourself controlling Kirby via the touch screen, racing or even playing golf. I find these to be a bit hit or miss, but it is easy to see why some would strike a chord with the right player. I don’t think a typical Kirby game has wowed me since I first played that aforementioned NES title – which remains one of my all-time favorite 2D platformers – but they are dependable. They are always good, solid fun. And there is comfort to be found in that.
Kirby: Planet Robobot definitely fits that traditional Kirby mold. It won’t put your platforming chops to the test. More often than not you’ll be running, jumping and floating to just explore the worlds before you, discovering secrets tucked away and solving puzzles along the way. Much of the fun comes from sucking up enemies and stealing their abilities to use against the foes that follow. Classic copy abilities like Hammer and Beam are back, joined by recent additions like Leaf and – one of my personal favorites – Archer. Planet Robobot adds a trio of new powers into the mix as well. ESP allows Kirby to attack using psychic energy and evade with teleportation moves. It ranks among the best abilities in the game largely due to the control you have over its main attack. Poison was my fave from the new crop. It reminds me of Water from Return to Dream Land with its similar surf and geyser abilities. The final addition is Doctor which finds you lobbing pharmaceuticals at enemies and smacking them with clipboards in hilarious fashion. Overall the game sports a fantastic group of powers to tap into, something I have come to expect from the series.
Along with being a more traditional Kirby, this is very much a follow-up to the previous 3DS entry Triple Deluxe. Like that game, Planet Robobot utilizes multiple planes that you can travel between, along with having attacks come swinging and sailing towards you from the background and foreground. This is put to great use in hiding secrets and crafting clever boss patterns.
What helps Planet Robobot stand out is the robot theme that pervades most of the game. This shows through first and foremost in the mech armor Kirby can hop into. While I was aware of Kirby’s new robo-suit before playing, I was completely unaware that you could copy abilities with it just like you do with Kirby normally. Instead of swallowing enemies, your mech will scan them to snag new powers. Cutter equips it with giant saw blades for chopping up baddies and slicing through obstacles. Fire gives you a pair of flamethrowers to roast your opposition. Mike lets you whale away at enemies with the thumping sounds of some big-ass speakers. They even cleverly created some vehicle sections by having you copy Wheel and Jet with your mech suit. The whole thing is wonderfully realized and an incredible addition to the game, giving new life to copy abilities you have been seeing for twenty-some years. As if the mech wasn’t enough, the robotic template also helps to deliver new takes on staple boss fights from the series like Whispy Woods and Meta Knight which long-time fans are certain to get a kick out of.
Along with the main story, there are other modes to dig into. Like one that allows you to play as Meta Knight and another that is basically a boss rush mode. While I didn’t get a chance to dig into these much myself, I understand there is more challenging gameplay to be found in the extra modes for those seeking it.
If you are familiar with Kirby, you sort of know what you are getting into with Planet Robobot. The mech is an excellent addition though and adds a new twist to just about every element of the gameplay from the light platforming and puzzles to the boss fights. Kirby: Planet Robobot is unlikely to blow you away and the series remains a step behind some of its genre contemporaries, but I still had a good time with this newest entry and I imagine the same will go for most anyone.