Gaming

‘Kirby Star Allies’ Review: Cute, Fun and Best Played With Friends

Kirby games are often overlooked. Perhaps it’s the character’s cute, kid-friendly look or the stigma that Kirby games are just not challenging enough for “serious” gamers. Despite all of that, recent entries in the series have been some of Nintendo’s best, and Kirby Star Allies is no exception.

Kirby Star Allies is the character’s first outing on the Nintendo Switch and brings the best of what the franchise has to offer while adding new characters, abilities and ways to play with friends. There’s a reason “Allies” is in the title: you’ll want to play with friends and that is, frankly, the best way to play.

STORY

Kirby games aren’t known for their long, complicated narratives but Star Allies manages to make our favorite pink puffball’s adventure feel epic. Dark energy, shaped like hearts, have fallen on Kirby’s homeworld of Popstar. The sinister force has taken over the inhabitants of the world, including some of Kirby’s most memorable friends and foes. Of course, it’s up to Kirby to stop them, and he discovers an alien threat has come to take over Popstar.

Without spoiling anything, Kirby’s travels aren’t confined to Popstar. You’ll travel the universe finding out what the villains are up to, fighting your way through hordes of enemies and bosses until the final battle culminates with some amazing, innovative gameplay unlike any previous Kirby game.

kirby star allies cave stage Nintendo

GAMEPLAY

Kirby Star Allies serves up the classic platforming action fans of the franchise have come to expect, complete with dashes, jumps, inhaling enemies and Kirby’s signature float, but co-op is the key to beating the game. Players will need to use Kirby and his ability to transform enemies into friends to defeat baddies and solve puzzles throughout every stage.

Up to four players can join in the action and it’s the ideal way to play Kirby Star Allies. Having your friends around makes exploring every nook and cranny of each stage a blast as you use your combined powers to discover all sorts of secrets. New abilities like the Staff and Spider (my personal favorite) abilities are welcome additions to the ever-growing list of Kirby powers and are a lot of fun to master, but it’s combining abilities that really makes this game a cooperative effort.

Kirby games let you blend powers before, but Star Allies gives it a new feel. While you can still combine powers to unleash one massive attack, now you can also merge the fire and sword abilities to have Kirby wield a flaming sword throughout the stage.

Switch_KirbyStarAllies_screen_01 flame sword Combining fire and the sword abilities makes the Sizzle Sword! Nintendo

It’s a lot of fun trying to mix and match abilities to find strategies to defeat a boss or solve a puzzle. The game does a good job of suggesting which abilities work best in a given scenario without being too overbearing, but experienced players will understand the situation without them.

Playing Star Allies is one of the most fun, relaxed co-op experiences you’ll have, but that’s only true if you’re actually playing with someone else. If you’re going solo in Star Allies , you’ll get a bit frustrated with the AI along the way. Your AI friends will know when to use their abilities, but, like a lot of games, will wait for Kirby to make the first move. There’s something missing when you’re going through Star Allies alone. You can’t explore as freely and you definitely can’t fight as well, which is most evident when trying to combine powers.

Combining abilities in Star Allies is a simple press of the up button. Anyone on the team can do it, but if you’re the only player, you have to press up to start a combination. For example, if Kirby has the Sword ability but you want your teammates who have the Hammer and Ice to combine, the AI default to having Ice combine with your Sword (even if you didn’t want it) before it goes on to combine with the Hammer ability. Not only does this waste time, it makes handling a wave of villains or a boss battle consistently frustrating. One of my favorite partner skills is the Paint ability, which can conjure up a fridge with food to heal the team. However, if Kirby isn’t holding the Paint ability, you’ll need to hold the up button until the AI recognizes that’s what you want it to do. This isn’t a problem when you’re playing co-op, which is the biggest reason (outside of having fun with friends) to try and beat Star Allies in a group.

Switch_KirbyStarAllies_screen_04 You'll need to team up to unleash powerful attacks. Nintendo

Once the main story is complete, mini games are unlocked for even more co-op fun. You’ll also be able to play through the story again as one of the ability partners instead of Kirby, and you can challenge your friends in time trials. There’s also some replayability in the story, as you can go into levels to try to find missing puzzle pieces you may have missed.

The difficulty level of Kirby Star Allies is on par with past games, so if you’re looking for something really challenging you won’t find it here. That said, the the end-game bosses are tougher than they look, especially if you’re not playing co-op.

VERDICT  

Despite its shortcomings,   Kirby Star Allies is exactly what the franchise needs to start its life on the Nintendo Switch. Fans of the franchise will enjoy the classic platforming and appreciate the new abilities while new players will get a taste of all the Kirby games have to offer.

The difficulty level is a bit on the easy side, especially when playing with friends, but it’s the perfect game to play with kids or anyone who doesn’t fancy themselves a gamer. It’s charming, easy on the eyes and loads of fun with friends.

8.5/10

Editor's Pick