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Game Review

Bad guys have always underestimated our man Kirby. Since way back in 1992, when he first popped up on the scene, he's been sneered at by many a mischievous marauder. After all, who could fear a little pink balloon-like fella whose worst quality is looking adorable?

Well, look out baddies, there's a new mech-suit-wearing Kirby in town. And he's looking mean ... in a marshmallowy pink way.

Over the years, Kirby has had to defend various parts of his home world of Popstar. But in Kirby: Planet Robobot, evil invaders take the whole planet as their own and plan on stripping it of all its natural resources. The evil-minded corporate kingpin President Haltmann and his Haltmann Works Company swoop in with a moon-sized ship that latches onto the planet and begins transforming Popstar's peaceful meadows and green hills into paved highways and bustling cities.

Past powerhouses King Dedede and Meta Knight try to give battle, but they're quickly swatted away by Haltmann's superior tech. Only little puffball Kirby (who finally wakes up from his nap) has any hope of slowing the circuit-board-and-steel mechanization of his home. He'll have to attack the ship's five invading leg bases and then confront the big man and his super-computer to win the day.

Don't Mess With the Puffball

This newest Kirby title checks off all the classic Kirby game boxes: There are lots of new beautifully designed lands full of lasers, mechanized sharks and giant billiard balls to platform through. The enemies and obstacles are all fun and inviting. There are colorful collectables.

And Kirby sucks ... in a good way. The pink protagonist's not-so-secret weapon has always been his ability to vacuum up menacing monsters and copy their abilities and moves for a while. So Kirby can quickly learn to throw ninja stars, breath fire or transform himself into an indestructible statue, along with 20-plus other abilities, to face the challenges before him. Some new additions allow him to spew a poison blast that weakens opponents or give him the power to magically transport himself from here to there and attack with mental zaps.

Of course the biggest addition here is Kirby's massive suit of robotic armor. He doesn't get that boost all the time, but on occasion he'll run across a discarded mechanized suit, spiff it up with a fresh coat of pink, and set out to smash everything in sight. The suit can scan enemies and absorb their skill sets, too. Giving Kirby boosts such as gigantic rock fists or obstacle-slashing buzzsaws.

Too Much Punch in the Pink?

Now with all that extra mash-and-bash power, you might wonder if this latest Kirbyverse caper gets a bit messier than those in the past. But, thankfully, that's not the case. Whether Kirby is firing flames or trampling a train, there's no incinerated innocents or bloodied baddies to worry over. The vanquished just poof out of existence when bopped, zapped or consumed.

Those souped-up mech abilities are really all about using power to solve puzzles and open new pathways that Kirby could never have dared before. The 13 copied mech abilities allow for a lot more gaming variety: letting Kirby move massive blocks, solve puzzle chains with injections of an electric zap, or jet off into side-scrolling Gradius-like mini games. But even when the Kirb flies into serious blasting mode, it never really feels like a shooter as much as a colorful zap-the-spaceship game from long ago.

In fact, like past Kirby games, the thing parents will likely be the most concerned about is their own young'uns' skill levels. When reaching the end of the game, the swirling and soaring bosses definitely require some lightning-fast reflexes to best. And that could mean that dad or mom might have to slip on a mech suit and give things a button punch or three.

Fortunately, they'll likely enjoy Kirby's blobby and rose-hued charm just as much as junior.

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June 10, 2016

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Bob Hoose

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