When I first suggested that Plugged In review the latest Kirby title, my editor cracked, "What? Is that about a vacuum cleaner?" No, no, it isn't—er, except when it is. Because this game is all about the heroic sucking power of an adorable little bouncing ball.
After a 22-year history on a wide range of platforms and consoles, Kirby finally makes his way to the Nintendo 3DS in Kirby: Triple Deluxe. His latest adventure starts out when the little rose-hued guy rises from a good night's sleep to find that a giant beanstalk has taken root in his home world of Dream Land and lifted his whole house up into the clouds, à la Jack and the Beanstalk. But there's no "fee-fi-fo-fum" and golden eggs in this tale. Here the green vine-y house-lifting is being perpetrated by a giant wasp-like creature known as Queen Sectonia.
The queen's six-armed minion Taranza snatches up Kirby's friend King Dedede—whose castle is also being lifted by a beanstalk. And it's up to Kirby to run up the so-called "dreamstalk" as fast as his little stubby pink legs can carry him and make his way through six vine-suspended islands full of bashing minions and supersized puzzling baddies (each island containing five or six platform-jumping stages apiece). It's all in an effort to save the king and set things right in Dream Land once again.
Hey, Who Needs Mario Anyway?
How does a rotund and rubbery pink person do all that, you ask? Well, it just so happens that for all of his innocuous-looking cuteness, Kirby is actually the Superman of the Nintendo platforming universe. Mario's got nothing on this guy! And it all comes back to that sucking ability I mentioned earlier. Ahem. I should say, that my editor mentioned earlier.
First Kirby gulps down great quantities of air—which allows him to float on the breeze like a colorful balloon when he needs to jump out of the way of some baddie's long-range blocks or bombs. When those no-goods get closer, though, Kirby can suck them right up if they're small enough. Then he spits his foes out again as projectiles, or he can even copy their exotic abilities.
With those absorbed powers, regular old air-sucking Kirby can become fire-breathing Kirby, bomb-juggling Kirby, electric whip-cracking Kirby and more—for a total of 26 different attack and defense skills. And when he gobbles up a certain flamboyantly glowing fruit, Kirby goes "hypernova" and gains the sucking power of trillions of vacuum cleaners, enough to uproot trees and gobble down everything from monsters to an entire train or building. Why, in one nighttime stage, Kirby gets to inhaling so voraciously that he consumes the night sky backdrop completely—leaving a sunny day in its wake.
Oh, the Pink Blobby Cuteness of It All!
That sunniness, in fact, tends to be the modus operandi of this game. Even with the most intense blast- and bomb-chucking challenges, Kirby always has the right tools relatively nearby to make his way past with aplomb. And if he's zapped enough to empty his life bar, or jumps off the wrong precipice, he rematerializes just prior to the spot where he was knocked out.
All that becomes especially entertaining when you add in Triple Deluxe's 3-D features. Enemies will pop up in the background and make their way to the foreground, and Kirby can hop a transport star or jump in a nearby cannon and shoot back to that distant layer (or level) to find clues and keys, too. It gives a whole new fun dimension to puzzle-solving and foe-besting.
Now, that's not to suggest all the puzzles and levels are easy. As the game unfolds, some of the seemingly dead end locales or wickedly fast-reflexed bosses can be difficult indeed. For instance, one flying witchy character tosses paint at the screen, using that 3-D vision to her favor as she blocks your view with cackling glee and bops poor Kirby just behind the red and green streaks.
An average 12-year-old who is used to playing these kinds of games will still survive splendidly in the midst of all that. And even my 5-year-old granddaughter was immediately enthralled with Kirby's pink blobby cuteness when she caught sight of me playing for this review. She could only make it through the game's easiest bits herself when I gave her a try. But she was more than willing to watch the Kirb do his thing for as long as I was willing to punch the buttons.
Clearly this little vacuuming hero sucks up kids' interest just as easily as the monsters he inhales. So it's a very good thing that his cartoony puzzle-solving and prolific platform-hopping is filled with such silly charm and not much grit or harm.