|HAL Labs always seems to work gameplay magic with the little pink puffball known as Kirby, and they've even managed to do it again on Nintendo's wacky touch-screen handheld. If any DS game that I've played so far could make me want a DS, this would be it.|
One of the great things about the game is that the control is all via the stylus, so you don't have to worry about juggling pad and stylus input at the same time. They keep your stylus plenty busy, however: you prod Kirby to make him dash along, you touch enemies to stun them, you zap star blocks to make them disappear, and you draw rainbow-colored paths in the air to guide Kirby through hyper-colorful mazes of floating platforms, pipes, powerups, puzzles, and pests.
I'm not so hot on poking Kirb or the badguys all the time, but drawing the rainbow paths to guide him around is actually quite pleasant; the feeling of being able to generate these color-strobing trails in any spot and direction you want is pleasantly freeing. You can draw jumps or loop-de-loops to really fling the Kirbster along at high velocity, which is where things really start clicking.
This being a Kirby game, you can capture powers from enemies by smacking into them (not sucking them so much, as you do in usual Kirby games), and then the power is yours to use until you get hit.
In the brief time I spent with the game, I didn't hit any major opposition, even from the boss; the only real challenge was guiding Kirby around the mazelike levels in the way I wanted, and getting him to the goal. I'm not sure if it keeps track of clear time, but it would be cool if it did, because I could see replaying those levels to see how quickly I can get him through. Anyway, I suspect that having to draw frantically in order to keep Kirby out of hideous obstacles would be a little frustrating; come to think of it, I did die twice in one spot where Kirby suddenly bounces into a big room that turns out to have a death-pit instead of a floor. That wasn't too cool. I hope they don't pull that kind of thing too much as you get further into the game, though it wouldn't surprise me if they do.
You can unlock a few minigame modes here. One has you follow a line tracing to form a rather abstact picture of one of the game's sprites. The other one is much more fun, as you get to ping-pong Kirby up through successive chained rooms by drawing rebounding platforms with the stylus.
The upper screen has a map and maybe inventory readout or something while you're playing; to be honest, I didn't really look at it at all. Just goes to show why the DS would have been much cooler as a single big touch-screen tablet with no traditional controls at all. Maybe next time.