HAL Laboratory’s pink puffball is back to save the day the only way he knows how—by literally devouring his unfortunate enemies—but, this time, he also turns their very own tech against them. Say domo arigato to Mr. Roboboto in Kirby: Planet Robobot!
Uh-oh, is there another nightmare in Dream Land or something?
Not quite. This time around the entirety of Planet Popstar is in jeopardy as a mechanical invasion force attacks and immediately begins terraforming said candy-colored world. But who can stand up to such a sci-fi onslaught? What brave, shape-shifting warrior dares rise up against this aggressive industrialization? Oh, I think you know!
What you’re saying is Kirby is a… Luddite?
Actually, if we’re really gonna get into the metaphorical weeds here, Kirby’s truly fighting against the Haltmann Works Company, the sinister corporation behind Popstar’s forced metallic makeover. It seems as if Haltmann’s shadowy leadership has taken a keen interest in the planet’s abundant natural resources, seeking to exploit this bounty with or without the cooperation of Kirby, King Dedede, Meta Knight, and the world’s other natural inhabitants.
Okay, so it’s Kirby versus the 1%, but how does this battle against our corrupt corporate masters play?
Really well. Really, really well!
Old favorite Copy Abilities like Ninja, Fire, and Sword make an appearance, as do new forms like the noxious Poison, the capsule-flipping Doctor, and the Ness-inspired ESP. When Kirby absorbs these abilities, they often feel loose and even slightly float-y—as they should. And yet, when Copy Abilities are scanned and replicated by his new Robobot Armor, they feel tightly tuned and perfectly powerful.
Bomb Mode unleashes kamikaze walker-bots. Spark Mode morphs the arms of the power suit into crackling dynamos. Cutter Mode dwarfs Kirby’s typical projectiles with its devastating rotary saw blades.
And when you’re not hacking and slashing, jumping and brawling, or charging through obstacles, the Robobot occasionally morphs into Wheel or Jet Mode. These alt-forms take advantage of specialized levels that invoke daredevils jumps and madcap bullet-hell battles, and, rather than seeming like idle filler, these infrequent occurrences offer some of the title’s most satisfying gameplay.
Kirby has a mech-suit?!
Yeah, that’s sort of the gimmick this time around. Only, instead of being gimmicky, it genuinely adds a new dimension to Planet Robobot‘s platforming and puzzle-solving. The Robobot Armor can only be entered and exited at strategically placed docking points in specific levels, so keeping a keen eye out for subtle clues—like large but Robobot-breakable blocks in out of the way places—can help you plan your mechanized strategy and avoid unnecessary backtracking.
Wait, so Kirby still copies enemy abilities but the Robobot Armor does too?
Indeed. While the mech-suit can’t take advantage of Kirby’s full slate of Copy Abilities, it does boast a respectable 13 Modes (as opposed to Kirby’s 27). Better yet, Kirby and his sweet robotic ride can have different Copy Abilities at the same time. Maybe you freeze a couple of Bombers before climbing into the mech, analyze one of the remaining enemies, and then use Bomb Mode to tear through some handily placed environmental hazards.
I can dig it. How does it look?
With Nintendo shifting focus to its next generation product, it’s tempting to think of both the Wii U and 3DS as orphan platforms, and yet, with Kirby: Planet Robobot, HAL demonstrates a real mastery of the hardware easily comparable to any other Nintendo portable in its heyday.
The 3D visuals are expertly employed as the action shifts from the foreground to the background, where additional enemies lurk and sinister machinery still spins. Sometimes Kirby is even tasked with collecting a (very obviously Game Boy-inspired) remote control and leading a robot surrogate on this secondary plane while he platforms in the forefront.
In short, whether it be underwater, in an oversized casino, or even through Planet Robobot‘s strange cyberspace-y later levels, the game looks great. Even in its less-inspired sections—I’m looking at you, derivative underwater world—the title still wows you with its nuanced visuals, its stellar soundtrack, and all the stylistic charm you’d expect from a modern Kirby game.
Looks good, sounds good, plays well—what’s not to like?!
My gripes are minimal, but not exactly insubstantial.
First off, Kirby: Planet Robobot is short. So short, in fact, that my 11-year-old and I both managed to power through the core Story Mode in a weekend. (The game does support 3 separate save files, so both of us and my young daughter were all able to play without stepping on anyone’s metaphorical toes.)
Planet Robobot counters this by providing lots of supplementary content. Two alternate play modes, 3D Rumble and Team Kirby Clash, are available at the outset, with additional content unlocked upon completion of the game. The former is a fun but simplistic 3D arena fighter with a bit of a tactical slant, while the latter is a four-player boss rush with some light RPG elements—specifically persistent character leveling.
Essentially, like the core game itself, the bonus modes are high quality but noticeably on the short side.
My only other complaint is the title’s very uneven difficulty. This can serve to make it frustrating for novice players, with the traditional multi-part final boss battle likely testing the patience of even die-hard Kirby enthusiasts.
All that said, I will reiterate that Kirby: Planet Robobot is a top-notch title. And between the various alternate play modes, callbacks to previous games, and a heavy slant toward hidden collectibles—which include both the Code Cubes needed to eliminate the firewalls separating Kirby from his various boss battles and scores of franchise-themed stickers—there’s a lot to love about this charming sci-fi action platformer.
Do those stickers actually do anything?
Okay, that’s another minor gripe I have; the stickers work great as a clever collectible hook, but they would’ve worked even better as a full-fledged game mechanic. While you can apply a single sticker from your ever-growing collection to either side (right and left) of the Robobot, they are purely cosmetic. That’s cool and fun and it’s satisfying to see those empty spaces fill up with newly acquired baubles, but it would’ve been even better if specific stickers provided in-game buffs or bonus abilities.
What kind of amiibo support does it offer?
Interestingly enough, Planet Robobot‘s amiibo integration basically incorporates the aforementioned play mechanic! In Story Mode, you can easily scan in an amiibo to gain a Copy Ability—even if there are no easily digestible enemies in your immediate vicinity.
Some amiibo generate a random Copy Ability while others provide consistent results. (Link, for example, provides the Sword ability, and scanning the original Kirby amiibo gives you the devastating Smash Bros. attacks.) There’s even a new crop of Kirby series amiibo that provide unique skins and special Copy Abilities, like King Dedede’s Hammer.
Who should pick this one up? Kids? Adults? Burgeoning ecologists? Young radicals looking to rise up and seize the means of production?
Kirby is a man… a boy? Uh…
Kirby is a character for all seasons, and, as such, Kirby: Planet Robobot offers broad appeal. Rated E, its violence is strictly cartoonish in nature, and—my numerous nods to the title’s nonexistent political subtext aside—it’s yet another satisfying, family-friendly romp through Planet Popstar.
While the length of the initial Story Mode is a little on the short side, Planet Robobot goes out of its way to offer as much content as you’d care to explore. Also, since it offers multiple saves and its Team Kirby Clash feature supports download play, a single copy can serve the whole gamer family. (And Amazon Prime subscribers can still pick it up for a cool $32!)
Just be prepared to help your little ones through some of its more challenging moments.
Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America