First things first, I have a bit of a confession to make - I may write about games for a living, but I'm actually pretty terrible at them. I struggle to keep a car travelling in a straight line in anything other than Mario Kart, my attempts at landing a plane usually result in an explosion and a rather large crater, and I managed to use over a hundred continues in New Super Mario Bros. Wii before we'd even reached the 5th world. And do not, under any circumstances, lock me in a room full of enemies with a dual-analogue stick controlled gun - I will find a corner and I will get stuck in it, staring up at the sky until a bad guy eventually puts me out of my misery. Fortunately, I'm pretty good at puzzle, RPGs and music games, otherwise I'd be out of a job.
Enter Kirby, a little pink puffball whose platformers are often chastised for being too easy for the vocal hardcore. Marking his first foray onto the 3DS, his latest adventure, Kirby Triple Deluxe sees Kirby waking up slap bang in the middle of a royal kidnapping. You see, everyone's favourite frenemy, Dreamland's penguin monarch King DeDeDe, has been whisked away by the spider-like Taranza, held captive atop a humongous beanstalk which has seemingly popped up out of nowhere overnight - and as always, it falls to the Kirbster to fight his way through the game's six worlds and dozens of levels in order to rescue him.
With the aid of his unique copy ability, which lets him harness the abilities of the enemies he swallows whole, be it a sword-swinging Link-esque outfit, the ability to turn into a stone statue to crush enemies or a new-found flair for fire breathing, there's puzzles to solve, collectables to hunt down and secret areas to find galore.
Making use of the handheld's 3D display (although the game still looks impressive enough with the 3D slider switched off), Kirby's latest adventure is one of depth - it doesn't shy away from firing giant gumballs towards the screen, swinging enemies towards your face or flinging a poor unfortunate Kirby into the screen when he accidentally steps in front of a train. Almost every level is split into a foreground and background, and riding between the two on conveniently placed warp stars is essential, particularly if you plan on finding all of the game's collectables. In fact, switching layer is often the key to solving the game's light puzzles, whether it's operating switches in the background to effect the foreground, racing to reach a key-holding enemy before it runs off a cliff or dodging the fireballs that threaten to burn Kirby to a crisp. There's also a number of fun items that make use of both perspectives, with a cannon hat that turns the 'over there' into a shooting gallery of sorts, while an impossibly long laser rod causes some serious carnage on the opposite side to our hero, as Kirby waddles along, oblivious as always. It's definitely not essential to play in 3D either (in fact, we rarely ever do), but you can tell that most of the level design has been done in such a way as to play up the 3DS' display.
Carrying on the theme of depth, the boss fights found at the end of each world are a particular highlight, which isn't something we often find ourselves writing about games. The first fight against 'Flowery Woods' (a hark back to the Wispy Woods of the older Kirby games) sees Kirbs in the foreground dodging the fruit the angry tree hurls from the background, between bouts of vicious roots bursting out the ground. The culmination of the second world took it a step further, with a fight against an artistic witch who spent her time obscuring the view with streaks of paint and bringing her deadly doodles to life.
From the lush leafy forests of Fine Fields to the saccharine sweetness of Lollipop Land, no two levels have the same look and feel either. One snow-filled level involved making use of Kirby's impressive lungs to drag snowmen heads back onto their bodies; the obligatory haunted house level came with a whole host of invisible walls and fake floors; while another forced you to scrabble to manoeuvre the pink puffball into the right place, so he'd avoid being squished when the background - a wooden façade that's full of holes - slowly toppled forwards. Simple puzzles sometimes make use of the 3DS' gyro sensor, asking you to tilt bowls of water to put fires out or water some flowers, move a lit fuse around to light a cannon or take Kirby on a cable-car-esque ride through a level. Perhaps not best suited to playing on a bus, but still.
Every so often, you'll come across a level which has a brightly coloured Miracle Fruit growing in it - and while most would be somewhat cautious, the ever-hungry Kirby swallows it whole to see what it does (and for more on the other things Kirby can chow down on, check out our cool feature - Can Kirby Eat It?). Triggering his new found Hypernova ability, which supercharges his stomach, Kirby not only turns rainbow, but he can now gobble up even more than usual, inhaling pretty much everything on the screen at the touch of a button.
More than just a new-found superpower, the hypernova ability kicks the Kirby-standard light puzzles up a notch, as you'll find yourself peeling off backgrounds, pulling back wrecking balls and dragging around your fair share of huge stone blocks, as the pink puffball channels the spirit of a souped-up Henry Hoover. It's goofy and gimmicky - but as you watch a 100ft pink eel slip down Kirby's gullet, gobble down an entire train or suck down several Waddle Dee houses in a rip off of the Three Little Pigs, you're too busy smiling to really care.
Like most of the other Kirby games over the years, getting from one end of a level to the other isn't especially difficult - but finding and collecting each and every one of the game's hidden collectables can prove trickier. Each level has a number of sunstones scattered around, a portion of which are required to unlock the boss level in each world, before you can move on to the next set of levels. On top of these, there's also a whopping 250 keychains to collect, each featuring characters, items and enemies from past Kirby games. Kind of like a lucky dip, the keyrings you pick up in levels (or purchase with Play Coins) will net you one of the 250 at random, while a few special golden keychains can be found hidden in specific levels too.
Another Kirby game tradition is that of including a few bonus mini-games to play outside of the main story, and Triple Deluxe is no exception. The Super Smash Bros-lite Kirby Fighters mode lets you and up to three friends pick your favourite Kirby transformation and brawl out your disagreements on one of half a dozen or so stages, with the help of items and power ups - and with full support for single-card download play, up to four 3DS owning friends can get in on the action, even if only one of you owns the game - although those without their own copy will have a smaller selection of Kirby skills to choose from. The second mini-game, DeDeDe's Drum Dash is a surprisingly challenging rhythm action/platformer in which you press a single button to bounce King DeDeDe from one end of the stage to the other on a number of drums, avoiding enemies, collecting coins and clapping in time for extra points as you go. With four increasingly hard levels and medals for reaching the end with no damage, collecting all the coins, clapping perfectly in time and clearing the stage within a set time, there's plenty of replay value too.
With minigames, collectibles, and plenty of things to do, it's hard to come up with anything bad to say about Kirby Triple Deluxe. Yes, it is easy, but it's also immensely fun, silly and bursting with replay value. It may tread familiar paths, bearing more than a passing similarity to the Wii's Return To Dreamland, but for both fans and newcomers alike, it's still very much a high point in the series, and definitely one of our favourites.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS