Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (Wii U) Review

This review has made it just under the wire-- right before the end of February. I didn't post anything yesterday because it was my birthday, and I was enjoying the day with friends and family. However, I have a new review for you in order for me to make up for it! Kirby and the Rainbow Curse has a lot going for it. It's the sequel to one of my favorite Nintendo DS games, it has a tremendous art style, and it has HAL Laboratory developing it. Let's see what I thought of the game!

State of Clay


One of my favorite Nintendo DS games that came out early in the system's life is Kirby Canvas Curse. It was one of the first titles on the handheld that made a compelling argument for the system's touch screen. In that game, you used the stylus to draw a path for the protagonist Kirby to follow, carefully guiding him through obstacle-laden levels. For the longest time I've yearned for a sequel to that game, and with the Wii U, developer HAL Laboratory and publisher Nintendo have answered the call with Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, an abundantly adorable game.

Every adventure has got to start somewhere!
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a similar in gameplay to the Kirby Canvas Curse in the regard that you as the player draw lines to direct Kirby in ball form through a series of levels containing a myriad of enemies to defeat, obstacles to overcome, and hazards to avoid. Tapping on Kirby allows him to initiate a faster roll that not only gives the Kirbster more speed, but it is also paramount to taking down enemies, as this time around, tapping on enemies does not do anything.

Draw lines on top of others to erase them.
You can't just willy-nilly draw lines, however. There is a meter in the top-left corner of the screen that displays how much magical paint you have to work with to draw lines. The longer a line is drawn or the more lines that are drawn at once, the quicker the meter goes down. If it empties, Kirby has to hit solid ground for the meter to refill. There are plenty of moments in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse where sufficient paint meter management is required, because you don't want to run out of paint over a bottomless pit. This adds a welcomed amount of strategy in drawing lines for Kirby.

Kirby isn't interested in getting his bath.
Lines aren't just for moving Kirby around through levels, though. They can also be used to block incoming projectiles; serve as a shield against lasers and flames; and be used for all-new level mechanics. One such example of such a mechanic is a level where Kirby is faced with a locked door with no means to open it himself. In the same room, but located in a part of the room that is inaccessible to Kirby, is a ball and a switch. The player can draw a line that starts at the ball and extends to the switch, which results in the ball rolling into the switch, unlocking the door for Kirby. There is a grand amount of clever uses that the developers have created for drawing lines.

Trapped? I don't think so!
Another change from Canvas Curse is that Kirby does not absorb the abilities of defeated enemies. Instead, throughout Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Kirby comes upon three unique transformations that each appear in two levels apiece. There's the tank that moves on its own, having you tap the GamePad screen where you wish for Kirby to fire. Then there's the submarine transformation; one where you touch on the screen where you want Kirby to move to. This is all the while torpedoes firing automatically from the submarine's front. You can draw lines to guide the torpedoes into enemies, switches, and otherwise desired targets. Finally, there is my least favorite of the transformations, the little bit unwieldy rocket. Any enemy in its path will get destroyed as long as it is hit by the rocket's front. Instead of drawing lines to guide torpedoes like the submarine, you draw lines to actually guide the rocket itself. There are no brakes on this rocket, which can result in some minor to major frustrations.

Kirby becomes a one-puffball army
with his tank transformation.
Levels are much lengthier in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse than they were in Canvas Curse. This is both a blessing and a curse. For one, longer levels make for a meatier adventure. There are seven worlds in the game devised of three main exploration and platforming-based levels with the fourth level being a boss battle, so the longer levels allow for Kirby's journey to not end quite so quickly. However, it's a negative when you're going after the game's collectibles, both stars and treasure chests, the latter containing either cool figurines of the characters in the game or musical tracks from the game. Many times Rainbow Curse only gives you one chance in a level to get a certain collectible, and if you fail to do so during that chance, you have to start the level over again if you want that particularly tricky treasure chest or batch of stars.

Kirby doesn't want to exercise, and he
certainly doesn't want to feel the burn.
Stars not only give you a grand total at the end of a level, ranking your amount with a gold, silver, or bronze medal, but they also give Kirby a powerful move to unleash for every 100 stars obtained. When 100 stars have been gathered, you can hold the stylus on Kirby to charge him up. You can then let go and see Kirby double in size, great for smashing through a room of enemies or better yet, taking out otherwise indestructible steel boxes, usually housing delightful bonuses. Different Kirby forms have different powered up moves that can be let loose in a given level. The only problem with having to hold onto Kirby with the stylus to charge him up is that sometimes the game does not register your hold. It can also confuse successive taps to fasten Kirby's rolling for holding down the stylus. This can mean unleashing a giant Kirby that bounces wildly around when you don't want him to, or worse, right into a bottomless pit.

Oh, Whispy Woods... Will you ever give up?
Obtaining gold medals in levels unlocks challenges in the fittingly named Challenge Mode. These challenges consist of a series of rooms where your goal is to get Kirby to the treasure chest before time runs out. Initial challenges are child's play, offering little difficult and easy access to treasure chests. However, later challenges require a skilled ability to tap and touch. These challenges add even more replay value to Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, which has a relatively short story mode, so that is a beneficial thing.

One of many challenge rooms in
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a blatantly adorable and cute game. Its cuteness emanates from the colorful diary pages that can be collected at the end of levels, the beautiful claymation art style of the game, and the cast of characters that you can't help but go "aw" to. The entire world of Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is made up of clay. This is punctuated even better by having the actual characters be at a lower frame-rate than the backgrounds, perfectly simulating the claymation style. Unfortunately, this game pretty much demands your attention to be centered on the Wii U GamePad screen rather than the television. Considering the GamePad screen is not HD, this can feel like a punishment if you have a giant HDTV to display the gorgeous art style on.

The utterance of "squee~!" just doesn't cover it.
The music of Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is amazing. Level themes are extremely catchy and full of riffs and melodic phrases that will stick with you long after the game has been shut off.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse isn't quite the sequel to Kirby Canvas Curse that I was desiring, but that notwithstanding, the game manages to create a wonderful identity for itself. While levels can be too long (annoying for completionists like myself), some transformations are better than others, and some frustrations here and there through normal play, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse isn't all sunshine and rainbows, but it is a colorful and delightful romp that should put a smile on any player's face. Of course, that's in between irritated grimaces.

[SPC Says: B-]

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bad Boss Battles in Gaming History - Part Four

WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR THE FOLLOWING GAMES AHEAD!

  • Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
  • Gears of War 2
  • Super Meat Boy
  • Mega Man X6
  • Yoshi's Story

Bad Boss Battles in Gaming History is back, everyone, for another installment! It's time once again to take these bosses to the woodshed, but this time I'm not going to defeat them, I'm going to roast them for being the total opposite of good. Whether they're annoying, misplaced, not any fun, hard for all the wrong reasons, too easy, or something else negative, I'm putting these five boss battles in their rightful place as bad ones!

Atoq Navarro - Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3)


Before we begin, I'm referring to the entire chapter, Chapter 22 - Showdown, in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune as the fight with Atoq Navarro, the final boss of the game. What occurs is a series of shootouts that has hero Nathan Drake ducking behind cover in the form of crates to pick off Navarro's henchmen and blasting the destructible boxes that Navarro hides behind.


The basic but still annoying premise of this chapter is to blast the boxes that Navarro uses as cover so they break apart, giving the main villain reason to retreat. Drake must time his shots carefully, as Navarro is equipped with not only his three mercenary henchmen in this first outing, but also a high-powered shotgun that can take an unassuming player down in seconds. With Navarro retreated, Drake can focus on the mercenaries, killing them before making chase.


The next setup has three more mercenary enemies, Navarro, and boxes for Drake to take cover behind. However, the latter can be destroyed by the henchmen and Navarro, so it means that Drake only has a set amount of time to take care of all four before he's proverbially naked, able to be killed quite quickly.

Once Navarro's cover is destroyed by Drake, he once again retreats. When the mercenaries are dead, Drake can run after him. This last arrangement has Navarro hiding behind indestructible cover, so here Drake has to pick off each of the three mercenaries one by one before Navarro runs away to a final platform.


It's here that Navarro stands out in the open, shooting in several bursts. When the shots finish, Drake can exit cover, move into Navarro's proximity and start a quick-time event, displaying Drake punching the snot out of his rival. A second time this is done, and the finale of the game occurs with Navarro's foot getting caught in a rope's loop, pulling him underwater to drown.


The timing required for the majority of this chapter is so precise that it makes for a highly frustrating experience for a player without the proper knowledge. Not only that, but throwing in a cliche quick-time event when Uncharted: Drake's Fortune had little to none prior to the endgame, makes for an unexpected change in gameplay. It all adds up to a painful to play chapter, and a very good reason why I don't generally like to replay the first Uncharted game.

Lambent Brumak - Gears of War 2 (360)


From the chapter in the book of "Bad Boss Battles" called "Total Letdowns of Bosses" comes this final boss from Gears of War 2, a title that had plenty of other issues with it outside of a disappointing final boss to worry about. Throughout the game it seems that a villain known as Skorge will be the final challenge to defeat in order for the Gears crew to successfully (but temporarily) save the day. In fact, Skorge is all but given the red carpet treatment to be the final villain to face.


However, players are thrown a curve ball when Skorge is defeated in the penultimate chapter. While some games would then have a more powerful, more dreaded, and more awesome challenge to take what was perceived as the main villain's place, Gears of War 2 instead gives players an incredibly weak on-rails sequence that ends with thirty seconds of holding down one button to take down the Lambent Brumak, the final boss of Gears 2, with the Hammer of Dawn weapon. "...That's it?" is a common thought or utterance to come from one's mind or mouth after the brief and deflating confrontation takes place. Ironically, the developer behind Gears of War 2, Epic Games, made a totally un-epic finale to their game.

Little Horn - Super Meat Boy (PC)


It's no coincidence that the boss that awaits you in the world called Hell is also the one that feels like hell playing. Super Meat Boy is an otherwise wonderfully designed game with clever, tight and responsive platforming that is quite fair. Usually when you die, it's because you didn't play well enough. However, the boss in the Hell world of Super Meat Boy is the antithesis of great design. Good bosses telegraph their attacks so you can be observant of that and hopefully evade them. Little Horn in Super Meat Boy is not a good boss.

In this boss fight, Little Horn pounds his big meaty hands on the platform he resides behind, as well as taking his forehead and smashing it to the ground, requiring you to dodge his offensive advances. The issue here is that again, there's no way to determine what attack is about to do, meaning that defeating the boss on one's first try is nigh impossible. Instead, you will most likely face Little Horn dozens upon dozens of times in order to simply memorize his attack pattern, as his attacks go in the same order every time. This is not good design, and it's confounding to me how a team that did everything else so terrifically with Super Meat Boy did so inexcusably horrible with this one boss fight.

High Max - Mega Man X6 (PS1)


Let me get this out of the way-- Mega Man X6 is a poor Mega Man game, and the second weakest Mega Man X game on home consoles. It's got a fetish for one-hit kill spikes, and it suffers from massively horrid level design. Now that I've let out that bundle of sunshine, let's talk about the boss of the second level of Gate's Laboratory, High Max.

High Max is a greatly annoying boss to fight due to his high defense, high health, and just how long the battle with him takes. Even if you cheese the fight through running into him with Commander Yammark's special weapon and purposefully take damage to do so, the fight is still a lengthy one.


The boss starts out by summoning two powerful force fields on both of his sides. At least one of these needs to be destroyed through giving an insane amount of damage to it for it to be removed, thus allowing you to unleash your attacks directly to High Max. You only get to hit him a minuscule amount of times before he calls back his extra defense.


The fact that one needs to actually cheese through the fight to take down High Max more quickly makes the battle such a bad one to me. Otherwise, you're stuck damaging the boss for small amounts of health each round his force field is down. It's just another thing to add to the pile of why I don't particular care for Mega Man X6.

Cloud N. Candy - Yoshi's Story (N64)


From a frustratingly time-consuming boss to an insultingly easy boss, Cloud N. Candy is but one of the bosses that can be battled halfway through the Yoshis' journey in the Nintendo 64 cult classic Yoshi's Story. It's obvious that Nintendo developed this game with children in mind. It's a simple game to beat, but it's a much more challenging one to master. Sure, you can just randomly eat any fruit to collect the 20 you need to complete a level, or you can do the incredibly challenging act of finding and munching down all 20 melons in a given level.


Nevertheless, there is no level of mastery needed for the battle again Cloud N. Candy, a cute play on words of "cotton candy". The boss slowly moves around the battlefield (or should it be a called a "massacre-field" since the boss is so darned simple to beat?), making large, floaty jumps in the process. All Yoshi has to do is take its tongue, lick, and lap up parts of the boss. With each successful lick, the boss becomes smaller and smaller. No worries about taking damage, as each time Cloud N. Candy has a piece taken off of it by Yoshi, it heals Yoshi. You can just jam on the tongue button to turn a once large mound of clouds into nothing within seconds. If only there were more danger and complexity to be found with this boss, which in its current state has next to zero, so Cloud N. Candy wouldn't be yet another boss to be considered by me as bad.

Side-note: Doing a no-damage run on this boss is not considered impressive!


===

Have your own disliked boss battles that you've had the misfortune of playing? Let the SuperPhillip Central community know in the comments below!

Final Fantasy: Record Keeper (iOS, Android) Announcement Trailer

A critical darling in Japan, Square Enix is bringing over Final Fantasy: Record Keeper for English audiences on the App Store and on Google Play this spring. Relive countless Final Fantasy moments as your favorite characters.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4, XONE, PC) “Gotham is Mine” Trailer

One of the big third party games for the current generation of consoles that makes me want to take the plunge on a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One when the game comes out is Batman: Arkham Knight. This looks to be an insanely cool and exciting conclusion to the Arkham trilogy. Here's hoping there's no silliness like the conclusion of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, but I digress! Check out this awesome new trailer for the game.

SPC Interviews: Jaywalkers Interactive (Kick & Fennick)

The team at Jaywalkers Interactive isn't a big bunch. In fact, it's just two people, yet they do the work of 10-20 people. That includes doing interviews to places such as SuperPhillip Central. Fresh off of the release of Kick & Fennick, currently a PlayStation Vita exclusive (also available for free for PS+ subscribers), both members of this two-man team took the time out of their hectic work schedules to answer a series of questions by yours truly. From how the studio came into fruition to the process of making Kick & Fennick a PS+ game, this interview ought to give you some more insight into the minds of indie developers.

Since this is an extended interview, check it out after the break.


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