Platforms: 3DS (reviewed on New 3DS)
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Kirby has been around for 24 years now. He's always been in solid games, and it wouldn't be a lie to say Kirby games have been more technically impressive than Mario's games, thanks in no small part to the genius of the late Satoru Iwata. However, Kirby's games have never really had that fun factor found in the plumber's games. Whatever the fun factor was that had been missing, HAL Laboratory seems to have found it in these last two years and put their own spin on it.
Kirby: Planet Robobot is the all around best Kirby game and it starts with the visuals. Obviously, there's only so much one can do with the 3DS and its pathetic 240p display, but HAL Laboratory has worked some magic by refining the Triple Deluxe visuals and choosing a robot motif that's unlike anything encountered in previous Kirby iterations. Seeing how the food-themed lands of planet Popstar are being industrialized and robotized in the backgrounds can be as engaging as the gameplay itself. While Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is one of the best looking games ever created, it's safe to say Kirby: Planet Robobot is the best looking Kirby that doesn't involve an arts and crafts gimmick
Here we can see Kirby murdering innocent evacuees after the robotizing begins.
The gameplay takes place on two planes and Kirby's ability to travel between them at certain points, combined with the large number of power-ups, allows for some interesting puzzles. The diversity in gameplay makes players learn new tricks and ways to use Kirby's powers to gradually teach mastery and thinking that's outside of the box. For example, using the new poison ability to breathe a poisonous cloud into the wind, which then blows it through an obstacle and hits a trigger that seemed unreachable. Even in similar sections that get repeated, like the Shmup or driving bits, there's always a new twist added that makes it fresh.
It's not a Kirby game without interesting powers, and Kirby: Planet Robobot does not disappoint. There are over 25 abilities you can master, including a few new ones like Doctor, Poison, and ESP, with a varying range of moves Kirby can perform in each mode. Players can see a move list for his current ability by pausing, which is great because some move lists get up to 5 (small) pages long, and have techniques that players wouldn't discover without some assistance or exploration. Like Fighter's ability to do an instant Mega-Fireball by using a traditional Hadouken movement instead of charging, or Doctor's ability to store charged concoctions for instant use at a later time.
Robobot's awesome, and you can use the stickers you collect to decorate him.
Then there's the eponymous Robobot. Kirby's powerful new mech makes a few appearances in each stage, but doesn't overstay its welcome. Just toying with its copy abilities and running roughshod over anything in your way is entertaining enough, but Robobot is used better than the Hypernova ability of Triple Deluxe, is the focus of some of the better puzzles in the game, and enabled HAL to include the aforementioned Shmup and driving sections. Which is great because the driving bits were a real show stealer when you get into a rhythm and freely jump between the foreground and background at will to reach new areas and avoid obstacles.
Kirby: Planet Robobot has great replay value too. It starts with the fact that you don't need a reason to go back to past levels other than it being fun to do so, but the puzzle elements and different powers make it so you'll have to go back at some point to find all of the collectibles. On top of that, beating the game unlocks Meta Knightmare Returns mode which allows players to control the overpowered Meta Knight as he makes a speed run through a modified version of the games main campaign, complete with upgraded bosses and an entirely different ending.
It's terribly simple, but Team Kirby Clash is still fun.
There are two small minigames on the cartridge as well: Kirby 3D Rumble, a game about inhaling enemies and spitting them at others in order to get the highest score possible over the course of 13 bite-sized stages, and Team Kirby Clash, an RPG-lite battle arena with 4 different classes of Kirby to choose from, a party of up to 4 players/CPUs, and a handful of bosses unique to this mode. Neither is very long, but they're nice additions to pad out the value, so it's hard to say anything bad about them.
If I had to pick a downside to Kirby: Planet Robobot, it would be the overall difficulty. It's a very easy game that, outside of a couple bosses, offers very little challenge if you don't care about solving the puzzles for 100% completion. In fact, it's played up as a bit of a joke when the recurring sub-bosses reappear, only for the player to be controlling a (potentially) Rock-powered Robobot. The ensuing encounter is more like a mulching than a battle. Also, it would have been nice if Robobot could use every copy ability instead of just eight of them, but that's a real nitpick.
Kirby Planet Robobot is what you get when the developers of the solid Kirby: Triple Deluxe watch a Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, play Platinum's games, and say “F%*k it, we can do that!” Solid Kirby gameplay, satisfying puzzles, quick genre shifts that help avoid monotony, tons of special homages, and a pair of endings that are going to make Platinum/Anime fans lose their sh*t. This is a game every 3DS owner should look into.