I had my eye on Planet Robobot for quite some time before I actually pulled the trigger. While I’m a sucker for Nintendo IPs and generally impulse buy anything they have to offer, the Kirby franchise had managed to evade me since I was younger. The only game I’d ever played was Kirby’s Dreamland, an extremely challenging game for a 9-year-old, as well as Kirby’s Pinball, both back from the original Gameboy days.
Well, I loved that game twenty years ago, so why wouldn’t I like it now, right? Those who have had a simiular thought with a franchise can probably agree this it can sometimes be very misguided, but every once in a while it pays off handsomely, and you’re rewarded with a great game that plays as well as you remember. I’m happy to say, this is one of those times.
Already having a presence of the 3DS with 2014’s Kirby’s Triple Deluxe, the pink and fluffy floating wonder is up for another healthy dose of 2D platforming with Planet Robobot, releasing in the Fall of last year. I had a price watch and managed to snag it for $20, and it graced on my shelf still in the shrink-wrap for some time while I wrapped up some other games. I finally popped it into my brand New new New Brand (New?) new 3DS over Christmas break, and since then it’s been making my morning bus commutes a whole hell of a lot nicer on the ol’ sanity meter.
If you’ve never played a Kirby game before and are considering leaping into the series, you may have noticed that they have an appearance as if they’re for very young children. This can be a little misleading, because looking at it through the lenses of an adult trying to escape after a typical weekday of drudgery, I see a bright, colorful, happy, and calming exterior. There’s not a single thing about this game that is stressful, and at the point I was playing it, a chill game to relax and enjoy was just what I needed. Anyone who splits Christmas between many families knows what I mean here.
Let me say, Planet Robobot is just what the doctor ordered. At the time I introduced it into my gaming rotation, I was in the midst of a few more stressful games, deep RPGs and the like, and when I needed a break from that tension, Kirby is what I kept going back to. The music and the general blissful vibe is enough to make anyone want to sit down and hang out for hours.
Not having played Triple Deluxe and coming into this game blind, I was a little unsure of what to expect as far as game mechanics go. I know the basics, 2D side scroller, suck up bad guys, spit them back at enemies, float around, yada yada yada. But with Robobot, one of the main aspects of the game is how you can absorb the special powers of your enemies to enhance Kirby’s repertoire of moves, by inhaling them and pressing Down. And let me tell you – there are a lot of cool features when you consider all the different enemy types in the game.
I inhaled a guy carrying a sword, next thing I know I am swinging around a sword and wearing a Kokiri outfit. I inhaled a wizard, now I can teleport and shoot balls of lightning. A poisonous looking blob turned me into some creature that leaves trails of deadly poison everywhere. Just about every enemy in the game can be inhaled to completely change Kirby into a whole other character.
In fact, it can be argued that the existence of enemies is purely for the benefit of Kirby. They aren’t particularly difficult to defeat or just straight up avoid, most of them lumbering about and maybe shooting a projectile at you which is easily avoidable.
But it’s the bosses where these abilities really shine. I haven’t played the bosses enough to determine whether or not some have special weaknesses, but what I can tell you is that certain abilities lend themselves to a particular battle technique, and sometimes that technique does not bode well while fighting a certain boss. For example, some bosses require moving around the screen frequently, so the ability that lets you throw explosive pills in a slow arc is not ideal. Some bosses are primarily airborne, making a ground ability tremendously useless.
All of the available abilities also have an entirely second set of new moves for Kirby when he is inside his Robobot. Rather than giving Kirby the power to electrocute enemies, while in the costume, he can now shoot lasers from his arms, and also send power through electrical outlets. Or he has flamethrowers for arms, or the ability to freeze things. All of these new moves allow him to interact with the environment: moving around cannons, lighting fuses, opening doors to secret areas, building snowmen (!). It’s these little details that can add so much style and replayability to a single level.
What I did not expect is the sheer amount of content actually packed into this game. Each level has two things to collect: badges and Code Cubes. There are a number of badges that, to my knowledge, varies from level to level, and Code Cubes vary between one and three. Many times they will be “ability locked,” meaning you cannot access the area you need to be without a certain power-up, so you’ll have to return later. Of course, replaying a level subsequent times with a different ability (though these can be changed on the fly, simply by scanning an enemy) completely changes the gameplay, so this doesn’t get old. It modifies the formula in each level just enough that you actually want to play the same level multiple times before moving on, just to make sure you got every last piece.
Somehow, Kirby: Planet Robobot manages to keep every level more intricate than the last, introducing new gameplay elements and “mini-games” in nearly every level, but never relying on them for too long so the player gets bored with seeing them. It’s a delicate balance that I feel Nintendo has a knack for striking perfectly in their first party titles. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D was the last time I played a platformer with these kinds of level intricacies that always felt fresh and new.
Nintendo has created a terrific game here, one that can be played for that golden time of 5 minutes to several hours. It doesn’t ever get frustrating because Kirby games aren’t frustrating. They’re fun and whimsical and that’s exactly what you’re getting into with a Kirby game. Buy Planet Robobot. Buy it, play it, love it. 5 out of 5 golden ponies.