Kirby: Triple Deluxe is the pink puffball's latest platformer, following in the grand tradition of classics like Kirby's Adventure and Kirby Super Star. Compared to previous games in the series, Triple Deluxe takes a great step forward in terms of complexity, as Kirby is armed with a greater variety of enemy-absorbing powers and attacks than ever before. Though Triple Deluxe will be familiar territory for those who played through Kirby's recent outings on the Nintendo Wii, the package still stands out as a high point in the series, thanks to its briskly-paced platforming and refined gameplay mechanics. Triple Deluxe finds Kirby at the center of a royal kidnapping. Series antagonist King Dedede has been attacked and whisked away by a mysterious otherwordly creature, and Kirby must scale an impossibly tall Dreamstalk as he pursues his longtime frenemy.
Triple Deluxe's environments are vibrantly colorful throughout, and each of the game's levels exude life and vibrancy thanks to exceptional background animation and solid use of the Nintendo 3DS's 3D capabilities. Gameplay follows suit, as levels are packed with enemy encounters and unique platforming challenges. If you were disappointed by the languid Kirby's Epic Yarn, you'll be happy to see Kirby back in fine form here, with breakneck pacing that recalls his heady Kirby Super Star days.
Many stages in Kirby Triple Deluxe revolve around a new plane-switching mechanic, which allows Kirby to travel into a level's backgrounds and foregrounds. This mechanic frequently adds a puzzle-like appeal to platforming. Often, you'll see a tantalizing collectible hidden in a background plane long before you're able to reach it, encouraging you to carefully explore your surroundings for breakable walls, hidden warp stars, or passageways that lead to secret areas. Each stage hides a handful of Sun Stones that unlock bonus levels when collected, giving further incentive for players to plumb stages for hidden secrets.
Even if you rush through its campaign, though, Triple Deluxe still offers a great degree of depth and variety. Many levels boast unique design elements and other standout features that make them memorable, helping to keep the experience fresh throughout. Kirby travels through a circus fun house in one level, challenging players to keep an eye on a mirrored background plane in order to identify ghostly traps and other elements that are invisible in the foreground.
Other level segments use the 3DS's gyroscope, requiring players to balance d-pad movement while tilting the 3DS itself. While gyroscope controls have the potential to frustrate, Triple Deluxe's infrequent tilt-controlled sections are a welcome diversion, and they work well in the context of the manic level layouts.
Kirby retains his enemy-inhaling capabilities in Triple Deluxe, and as in previous outings, he gains enemy powers after ingesting them. Triple Deluxe hinges its gameplay on these powers, and introduces a few that have never been seen before in the series. The "Beetle" power is an early favorite, expanding on Kirby's flight abilities while giving him the ability to spear enemies and slam them into the ground. The new "Archer" ability is particularly effective during boss battles, allowing Kirby to aim high-powered shots at enemy weak points.
Kirby's expanded move set really comes into play in "Kirby Fighters," a local multiplayer mini-game that features brawling in the vein of Super Smash Bros. In Kirby Fighters, players choose one of Kirby's copy abilities at the beginning of each match, and must defeat AI or human-controlled opponents in a series of arena battles. Like in Smash Bros., stages in Kirby Fighters introduce new background hazards throughout each match, and randomly spawned items can quickly turn the tide of battle. While it lacks the sophistication and variety of a fully fledged Smash Bros. game, it's a surprisingly deep addition to the Triple Deluxe package, and ranks as a solid multiplayer experience in its own right.
Other mini-games come up short, however. "Dedede's Drum Dash" is a hybrid rhythm-platformer that's fun while it lasts, but it only features a handful of levels. An Arena mode is equally short on content, serving up a series of straightforward boss battles. After completing the game, players unlock "Dedede Tour," a condensed reworking of the story mode starring King Dedede. It's surprisingly challenging, and mixes up the action enough to emerge as a distinct campaign requiring its own unique strategies.
Compared to its predecessor, however, Triple Deluxe is a more tightly designed game. Return to Dreamland's levels were marred by large expanses of repetitive terrain and filler areas – a concession to the game's four-player co-op mode. Triple Deluxe, on the other hand, is built as a single-player experience, and its levels are filled with deftly-paced platforming challenges. Individual level segments within Triple Deluxe are brief and punchy, and suffer from none of the repetition and wasted space found throughout Return to Dreamland's multiplayer-focused campaign.
Even so, Triple Deluxe can't keep up the same level of quality. Its final world is strictly filler, and retreads territory already seen in earlier levels. End-game boss rushes are nothing new for the Kirby series, but Triple Deluxe's hour-long ending sequence drags on over five lengthy levels of content copied verbatim from earlier stages, with little variation to justify their return. It ends the game on a disappointing note, especially when the preceding hours were so richly creative.
Kirby: Triple Deluxe doesn't succeed on all fronts, but the majority of its campaign is a joy to play, and the "Kirby Fighters" mini-game is solid enough to flesh out the package. Triple Deluxe doesn't reach the heights of Kirby Super Star, but it's still one of the finest Kirby adventures to date.
This review is based on a pre-release eShop download of Kirby: Triple Deluxe, provided by Nintendo. Images: Nintendo.
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