Kirby Canvas Curse Review

By Sgt. Fly

September 20, 2008

Kirby has always been one of the most underrated videogame series ever - regardless of quality, they were ignored by quite a few people. Not so with Canvas Curse; despite selling lower than the average Kirby game, it was released to much critical acclaim. So what is it about this unique Kirby game that made it catch such attention?

Storyline: 7.8/10

Kirby is taking a nice stroll through Dream Land one day, when suddenly a strange portal appears in the sky, and from it emerges the wicked sorceress Drawcia. She uses her magic to transform all of Dream Land into a painting. Brave Kirby won't stand for it and chases after Drawcia. Seeing Kirby, she flees into the portal as Kirby follows her into a world that is also made of paint. Drawcia sees that Kirby is a threat, but attempts to make him no longer so as she uses powerful sorcery to dispel Kirby's limbs, leaving him as a helpless ball, before she disappears. Fortunately for Kirby, she drops a Magical Paintbrush that he walks- uh, rolls over to. He touches the paintbrush and a ray of light comes down on it, transporting the brush to... you?

Seems a bit tacked on to me; another one of those "[Person] is on a walk when something bad happens" stories. Seems to happen too suddenly, and a lot of what happened isn't explained ‘til the ending. The concept of you, the player, being involved with the story is kind of cool, but just a tad cheesy. The game could have done with a better story, but this category doesn't affect my opinion much. But still...

Gameplay: 9.1/10

Easily the most innovative Kirby platformer to date. Buttons play a very minor role in this game, as most of the actions are performed with the touch screen. Since Kirby can't move himself as a ball, you need to make him roll through the courses by tapping him to make him dash. This dash not only gives Kirby a boost of speed, but will destroy enemies. There's another form of attack as well; if you tap on enemies, they will be paralyzed for a brief period of time. If you even do so much as nudge them a bit, they're down. But the really innovative part is your ability to draw "Rainbow Paths". The stylus, henceforth referred to as the Magic Paintbrush, is... well, the Magic Paintbrush. You can draw lines on the touch screen to create a Rainbow Path. Guide Kirby on to this path and he will follow it. This feature can help Kirby cross bottomless pits, gain altitude, or avoid objects. Rainbow paths have other purposes as well; you can draw on straight up to bring Kirby to a halt, to stop him from rolling off an edge or bumping into an enemy. It'll also act as a shield from enemy attacks, like blocking bullets from Shotzos or lasers from... things that shoot lasers, I guess. This idea may seem like a pointless gimmick at first and may not exactly be a selling point, but trust me, it's rare that you'll be annoyed by this mechanic provided your touch screen is functional. It's actually quite a fun feature and makes it require skill and strategy. But you won't be able to use the Magic Paintbrush all the time; in some levels there will be strange-looking fields of blue and red matter. When you try to draw a Rainbow Path, nothing will happen so you’ll have to guide Kirby through by other means like dashing.

There's no inhaling, but there's still Copy Abilities. If Kirby destroys an enemy with an ability, he automatically gains its power, symbolized by colored rings floating around him. Since Kirby's a ball and whatnot, some Copy Abilities function quite differently. The Beam power, for example, has gone from just shooting a normal, whip-like beam, to where it now orbits around Kirby’s whole body. If you touch and hold Kirby, he can keep shooting his beam as long as you hold him. The Spark ability has got a good upgrade. If you tap Kirby, thunder will come from above and give Kirby an electric exoskeleton briefly, which means he not only can attack enemies within close range, but enemies above him as well. Missile, the young ability fresh off of Amazing Mirror, got an improvement as well. Instead of just colliding with an enemy and making a surprisingly weak explosion, if Kirby hits an enemy, he still keeps going. But if he hits a wall he explodes, so you have to guide him with Rainbow Paths. Those are just some of the abilities, there are 11 in all. The game has 1 new ability, that would be Balloon. By tapping Kirby, he fill inflate and start to go upwards. After tapping him 3 times, he will pop and stun all nearby enemies. It's good that they at least included Copy Abilities, though the game wouldn't be much worse without them. I liked some abilities like Fire and Spark, but others were mostly a nuisance like Rock or Balloon. This is mostly because they remove your ability to dash in place of the special ability, which can make Kirby go very slow in some cases.

This is one of the first Kirby games to feature a Time Trials mode. in Canvas Curse, it's called Rainbow Run. There are 2 types of these that you can do for each level: Time Trial or Line Trial. Time Trial... No, it isn't a race against time. You get a higher score for how fast you can kill yourself within a given time. YES, of course it's a race against time. Each stage has 3 records set on it, and you have to beat them if you want to get some... rewards. Line Trials are a lot different. It doesn't matter how much time you take, your goal is to complete the level using as little help from Rainbow Paths as possible. The less you use them, the better you'll score.

One of my biggest complaints with the game is the swimming system. See, in this game, Kirby is buoyant. If he goes in water, he'll just stay floating atop it. To go underwater, you need to make him dash and he will boost downwards, but you have to keep doing that or else you'll float to the top again. You COULD use Rainbow Paths, but you have to draw them above Kirby instead, so it's hard to keep him on the path. Plus, if you need to speed up, you'll just end up going off the path. I would've much preferred if they made Kirby sink, make it pretty much just a normal level with lowered gravity. This system is pretty tedious, and even moreso if you have a Copy Ability.

What about Subgames? Bosses? In Canvas Curse, they're the same thing. At the end of each world, you get to choose a boss to fight: Kracko, King Dedede, or Paint Roller, each one with their own minigame to do. Kracko's minigame is called Block Attack, something of a flashback to Kirby's Block Ball. In it, Kirby bounces around the stages trying to hit enemies and destroy blocks to go to the next section of the stage. You can control where Kirby goes by drawing a paddle with the stylus, but this is surprisingly difficult to do and you'll probably end up with imprecise results. Once you've gotten through all the phases, you have to face Kracko and find some way to hit his eye to destroy him.

King Dedede's minigame is called Cart Run, and is probably my least favorite of the bunch. In the background, Dedede rides in a mine cart down a set of rails. Kirby has a mine cart as well, but no rails, so you have to draw them. In front of Kirby is a generator that produces lines for Kirby to ride on, and you have to use the touch screen to move the generator up and down. Dedede is generally faster than Kirby, so to have a chance, Kirby has to collect food along the way to speed up and beat Dedede in the race. The reason I don't like this one… well actually, I'm not really sure, I just don't. Maybe it's too fast-paced...

Paint Roller's subgame is called Paint Panic. Kirby appears in a tube on the top of the touch screen, while most of it is covered by a canvas with dots on it. Paint Roller will come and connect the dots in a pre-determined way, and you have to connect the dots in the same way he does to reveal a picture and boost Kirby through the tube. Why does he need to be boosted? Because he's got an army of Bombers on his tail and needs to escape before he's blown away. Paint Roller will keep drawing things for you to copy until you get to the final phase. In it, there will be... something with 16 panels. Stars will appear on some of the panels and you have to tap them before they disappear to fill up a gauge on the left. Once that gauge is full, the Bombers explode, not on Kirby, but on Paint Roller to take him down. The game could have been great, but it's too strict about having your lines straight. If you line is a little wobbly, you'll have to start from the dot you last made it to accurately. This annoying little mechanic makes the game harder than it looks. But on the plus side, it's got some awesome music and I love how Paint Roller is KO'd with his hand still in the "rock on" position.

I'm not too sure about having bosses and subgames combined, but at least most of them are decent. The thing that annoyed me a bit about them in general is that there are 3 of them and 6 worlds, so you have to fight them twice; one on easy difficulty, one on normal difficulty.

SO, I've gotten pretty in-depth here. I had quite a few criticisms in this section, so why did it get a fabulous score of 9.1? Part of that comes from the fact that Canvas Curse does what is harder and harder to do as time goes on - it makes a game that's very innovative and unique, but not a total gimmick.

Graphics: 9/10

It's hard for me to judge this category...The graphics are 2D, but on the flipside, they're awesome 2D. As a matter of fact, they’re probably the best 2D on the DS. Not just Kirby, but all character models have a large amount of shading; they're even better than Kirby's other DS game, Kirby Squeak Squad. I was also really impressed by the affects of the Fire ability, although strangely most of the other fire effects in the game just look average. The cutscenes look rather bizarre but overall good; they have a painting-like style to fit with the theme of the game. The characters have thick, white outlines, and blotches of paint can be seen in various places, although they're not animated.

Despite the lack of 3D, I'm not surprised. Amazing Mirror and Nightmare in Dream Land didn't have 3D graphics either. Of course, they WERE on the GBA. My point is... Kirby's always been a 2D series, and his first 3D platformer, Kirby 64, was also his last. Well, latest is a better term. Whether or not the up and coming Kirby Wii is under development, if it is released, then, well... I'll be really happy and whatnot. Off that topic (Alas, on-topic), I'm going to give these graphics a score of 9 because I don't care too much for graphics when compared to other categories.

Music and Sound Effects: 9.1/10

I think this is the most remixes I've ever heard in a Kirby game, and most Kirby games have an awful lot of remixes. Of course, a lot of tunes from Kirby's Adventure are remixed. The World 1-1 theme accompanies Plant Plain, the first level of the game. There's a cool Grape Garden remix in Contrast Cave, and a funny 1-2 remix in Machine Mansion. Kirby's Dream Land songs are also put in here and there. Tiny Town is first up, and satisfyingly remixes Bubbly Clouds. And as far as I hear, Mag Mount is a remix of Castle Lololo. I've never heard that track, but it must be epic because its remix in this game is as well. A passably remixed King Dedede theme plays during Cart Run, too.

But most of those we've seen before, what I'm really pleased by is the amount of Kirby 64 remixes, which haven't often been in Kirby games. Ravine Road is the first you'll hear, which plays the much-liked 3-2 theme. Dreamy Darkness also very well remixes the UFO theme, one that I once thought of as somewhat annoying. And I'm really liking the 5-1 theme remix on Cold Course, it makes me feel nice and nostalgic inside. Kirby's Adventure, Kirby's Dream Land, Kirby 64... I think that's all the games that have remixes featured here. I would've liked to see some more Kirby Super Star remixes, but there's already a great selection so I can't complain as much as I want to.

Originals, there aren't many of them here. In fact, I think I can name all of them from the top of my head... the opening theme, the goal game theme, Ghost Grounds, Silver Submarine, the ending and credits theme, and the various themes of Drawcia. I'm pretty fond of those tracks, minus Ghost Grounds, the goal game, and Silver Submarine. Drawcia's themes are nice, especially the music that plays during the last battle with her. And the last level of the game, her domain, holds what could quite possibly be the creepiest Kirby composition to date, even possibly one of the creepiest songs in Nintendo video games in general.

Controls: 8/10

You'll be needing a proper and functional touch screen to be able to play this game efficiently. The controls are quite simple: Draw lines across the screen to create Rainbow Paths, tap Kirby to dash, tap enemies to stun them. Even if all of the buttons on your DS somehow died you could probably still play and beat this game efficiently. However...
Who's to say your touch screen works well? That... was the main repelling factor for me that caused me to pass by this game at the time of its release (although I did spend long nights trying to pick crumbs out of the DS innards with a toothbrush). Now that I have me a slick new DS Lite, I can play like anyone else with a decent touch screen. But those are around 100, 150 dollars. 200? I don't know. my parents got it for me. For those who have average taste in games and are playing all the good and popular games on the DS, your touch screen isn't going to be good forever. Playing games that make heavy use of the touch screen, like Nintendogs, or getting foreign materials stuck in your DS can cause inaccuracy while playing the game.

The thing is, if your touch screen is inaccurate enough, your experience with this game could be a very frustrating one. You could try to tap Kirby a bunch of times for a big burst of speed, and end up stunning an enemy over and over again instead. You could be trying to draw a Rainbow Path across a pit but it ends up more vertical, causing Kirby to roll back and hit a Gordo. See what it could cause?

There are just a few tiny problems with the controls that both people with good touch screens and bad touch screens might be affected by. The only button that’s used in the game is the Start button, used to pause the game… Imagine that! Sometimes it's a bit inconvenient having to reach your finger all the way to that start button. Oh my GOSH, I am a desperate critic. Gimme a second to think of something good.

Okay, how about this? I'm not sure it has entirely to do with the controls or whether it's just me, but when playing the game I constantly found my left hand, the one not holding the stylus, getting numb about every half-minute. Perhaps it's the way you hold the DS or just that it hardly even plays a role in controlling the game and just falls asleep. ... That was good, right? Decent? Just okay? All right, don't roll your eyes at me, I gave you a boatload of content in that Gameplay section, you spoiled little pest. =<

Length and Difficulty: 6/10

You expected a low score, didn't you? It's Kirby, insta-ease. 8 Worlds are in this game, but they only have 3 levels each, and one of the worlds is just used solely for the final fight against Drawcia. This kind of level-and-world setup reminded me of Super Mario Bros. 2: short worlds but long levels. However, there is one point in the game where there is a significant difficulty boost. That would be at World 6, Omarine Zone. From there on the levels can be quite brutal. World 7, Wonder Lilane, isn't any different.

But exactly what is it that makes these last levels hard? Perhaps it's the growing variety of different threats Kirby must face. A gradually strengthening bestiary can be found in these late levels, including Blados, the more aggressive variety of Gordos, and Thudds, very Thwomp-esque creatures that may be positioned in tough spots. These are just some of the meaner enemies in the game. Environmental hazards are probably the most relevant to the difficulty burst. Spikes on the ground can be trouble if you're low on Rainbow Ink. In fact, the last level of Wonder Lilane is almost completely covered in spikes for the first room. Scrolling areas can be more of a threat than you'd think, because they could easily squash Kirby against a wall for an instant KO.

I've been talking about this sudden surge of difficulty all this section, but overall the game is still quite easy. The game is much more action-based than puzzle-based, and even if you encounter the occasional puzzle they're usually relatively easy. Even a few of the World 6 and 7 levels are easy, such as Collapse Castle, the first level of Omarine Zone. That's one of the later levels I didn't have much trouble getting through the first time. Nobody's gonna play Canvas Curse for its length... and yet, it's one of Kirby's harder titles.

Replay Value: 8.5/10

New Super Mario Bros. is to Star Coins as Kirby Canvas Curse is to Medals. One difference: Medals are more valuable. In the Main Game, 3 different Medals can be found in each course. Some could just be lying out in the open, some being guarded by blocks that can only be busted with a certain ability, or one could be in an anti-paintbrush field to force Kirby to find another way to it. But the most Medals can be found in Rainbow Run. With 3 records already set on the high scores table for each level in both Time Trials and Line Trials, for every record you beat you get a Medal, meaning there are 6 available Medals for each course in Trials. I... didn't really like that there were so many in Rainbow Run, it made collecting as many Medals as possible pretty tedious.

But Medals are not just collectibles, they're the currency of the game, so to speak. In the main menu there's an option called Medal Swap where you can trade your Medals in for other anonymous prizes. You won't know what you're buying until you actually buy it. These prizes can be music tracks, different-colored Rainbow Ink, extra courses in Rainbow Run, and best of all, more playable characters. Doesn't that sound nice? Well it's not as nice as it sounds. Yes, there are some very cool rewards to be found, but it gets kind of boring when you just get Rainbow Run courses and such over and over again. Think about it; Rainbow Run courses cost 9 Medals, and there are 6 medals in each of them. Since you're probably not going to have too much fun in these courses, it's kind of like you're working to earn back only a little more than half the Medals you spent. If you don't know what you're doing, your Medals could go to waste on a mediocre prize.

Fun Factor!: 8.5/10

Rainbow Paths make for more faster-paced action than most Kirby games, or platformers in general. It sounds fun, it is fun, but not as much so as I had expected. Using the new Rainbow Paths is at its best when you first use it - when I first did it in the training section I got a good smile out of it - but once you get used to it, then it just feels so normal. Of course you're gonna get used to big innovations some time or another, but this seems to happen so quickly in this game. Even though it takes only a short period of time to get used to it, the game still remains fun. Most platformers are, so how could Canvas Curse be an exception? It may not be as fun as it sounds, but it's close, and it's going to take a lot to make the game a chore.

Overall: 86/100

I rated this game the same as Squeak Squad for 1 reason - because I overrated Squeak Squad. What? Yeah, um, I'll get to editing that later. But for now, I was a tad underwhelmed by Canvas Curse, with so many people calling it the best Kirby game since Super Star. I can't agree with that, I wouldn't put it in front of Super Star, Adventure, 64, or Amazing Mirror, but I could still recommend it. As far as platformers on the DS go, you'd be better of with New Super Mario Bros, but when you're bored with that, Canvas Curse could be next. It's surely the best Kirby DS game right now, but we have a Kirby Super Star remake coming up soon so it likely won't hold that spot much longer. Still it’s had a good lifespan holding that title.

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