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Game Review

If you're a classic game lover, then the name Kid Icarus will surely ring your bell. Otherwise you're probably right now conjuring up images of a mythological teen with makeshift wings who flew a little too close to the sun and came crashing down in a ball of feathers and melted wax. But breaking out those old lit books for background info on this game'll get you nowhere. There's a lot of Greek-style mythology to be found here, but very little of it is actually recognizable.

The new Nintendo 3DS game Kid Icarus: Uprising is an updated homage to a highly praised blocky NES game from two decades ago. The story wings in and around a young laurel wreath-wearing hero named Pit, a "flightless angel" who's been called forth to save humanity from the evil forces of the underworld.

It seems Hades, who lured Pit into action with help from the snake-haired villainess Medusa, has tricked mankind into longing after an ancient artifact that can supposedly grant wishes. This tempting treasure throws the nations into a massive warring conflict while Hades and other god-like baddies go about gleefully picking folks off from the fringes. As the schemes and power plots unravel, there's only Pit to fight for mankind and hold it all together.

Is That Feather Ticking?
Of course, if Pit had to do all his arrow slinging and sword swinging with nothing but a sturdy pair of dusty sandals to get him from here to there, that would make his job a bit too difficult. Especially since he has to take aim at hundreds and hundreds of magical minions of all shapes and sizes. So a beautiful "goddess of light" named Palutena takes pity on her young charge and grants him the gift of flight—but only for five minutes at a stretch. He can stay in the fight even when his nefarious foes take to the air—at least for a little while.

Gameplay wise, what that all boils down to is something of a two-front fighting game. Each chapter is divided into an air-based target-shooting section and a grounded platforming battling and treasure-finding section.

There are an assortment of weapons to grab, from staffs and claws to clubs and blades to arrows and cannons. Each type has its own speed, distance and strength in the melee and ranged attacks. And they can be upgraded and even fused together in new customized configurations. There are also special powers to be earned from time to time—such as quick healing and wide-range meteor showers.

In the midst of all that dangerous-sounding weaponry, though, things are kept quite colorful and cartoony—with shots and slashes resulting in bright bursts of energy that strike down the fantastical foes, not blood-soaked carnage that drips from dark and dank monsters. Comical wordplay zips between Pit and Palutena and all their small-g god enemies. "Jeez" and "darn" are as coarse as their words get. And as for the quips, we hear nothing much more menacing than the goddess winkingly warning Pit against any "naughty" thoughts. It's all notably light and fun when you stop to remember that you're playing a shooter of sorts.

What's a Hades, Dad?
The game's biggest chance for a case of melting wings probably comes from two completely different areas. The controls for Pit's quick-paced movement and targeting consists of flipping a thumb pad with one finger while repeatedly triggering a bumper button with another and using the 3DS stylus on the touchscreen at the same time. When you combine that with trying to keep your handheld console upright, well, it can be a clumsy and uncomfortable proposition—especially for younger gamers.

And once they get the knack of that, they have to continue dealing with the game's odd mix of myth, magic and hints of Eastern spirituality. As mentioned, there are gods and goddesses and dragons and beasties of various stripes to deal with, "sacred artifacts" to gather and weaponize, and a twisting heaven vs. underworld storyline to traverse.

Without question, this E10+ title is bright, playful and engaging. Just keep in mind that it's a wax-winged trip that requires a bit of mom's or dad's navigational help.

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March 23, 2012

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Bob Hoose

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