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Kirby: Canvas Curse – DS

Kirby: Canvas Curse – DS

Kirby: Canvas Curse - DSPlatform:  Nintendo DS

Release Date (NA):  June 14th, 2005

Developer:  HAL Laboratory

Publisher:  Nintendo

Genre:  Platformer, Puzzle

Nerd Rating:  5 out of 10

As I slowly and somewhat haphazardly work my way through the back catalog of Kirby games, I was finally forced to confront the mold-breaking Canvas Curse.  First of all, my comparatively low rating may be misleading.  In fact, I dabbled with the idea of rating it “?” but in the interest of consistency, eventually settled on a perfectly middle-of-the-road “5.”

Now this “5” should not be construed to mean that all aspects of Kirby: Canvas Curse are decidedly average.  Rather, there is as much to hate about this game as there is to love, and in the interest of the good and bad elements being paradoxically equal, I felt that this was about the fairest score I could possible give it.  Canvas Curse employs a novel control scheme, requires the player to solve spatial puzzles, and encourages a highly interactive level of involvement, yet it also suffers from a lack of precision control in a precise world, relies on an abnormally difficult confluence of reflex and planning, and implements a demanding system of interacting with the surrounding environment.  It begs to be played yet can’t help but hand out buckets of frustration in the process.

Kirby: Canvas Curse - DSLike all Kirby games there’s a bit of a story going on to explain things, but like all Kirby games, it doesn’t matter a great deal.  At any rate, a witch named Drawcia has turned Dream Land into a world of paint, and Kirby takes chase to undo her dastardly deeds.  The catch?  Her modifications have left Kirby in the form of a limbless, nigh helpless ball, and it’s only with the help of the player and the Magical Paintbrush that Kirby can put a stop to the craziness.  Right from the get-go you know this is not going to be typical easy-going Kirby-style fun.

Ever eager to show off the novel features of the DS, such as the touchscreen, Nintendo gave us an entire platformer based on the touchscreen, ultimately turning it into a bit of a puzzler at the same time.  (Admittedly, doing all of this on a touchscreen was pretty impressive 10 years ago.)  Kirby can’t really do anything, and that’s to say the player can’t directly control his movements or actions by conventional means.  No D-pad, no Circle Pad, no A, B, X, or Y; not even any use of the L and R buttons: the entirety of Kirby: Canvas Curse is played using the touchscreen and the stylus.  (And you really must have the stylus; this isn’t the kind of game where you can go poking around with a fingertip.)

Kirby: Canvas Curse - DS

To put it into perspective, imagine drawing a line for Kirby to travel on that takes him directly through each of those stars.

So how does it work?  Well, as a ball, Kirby will naturally roll downhill when possible or continue rolling in the direction he’s already moving.  Tapping Kirby directly with the stylus will cause him to perform a small dash or activate his copy ability (if you can manage to keep one in tow long enough to activate it).  The gimmick is that instead of making him jump or controlling Kirby’s direction, the player must draw lines on the screen.  Kirby will travel in the direction the line was drawn.  This is solely what lets him go up, protects him from bottomless pits, and what governs which direction he’s moving at a given moment.  Besides directing his path, they can also be used to block enemies.

And that’s it.  That is the extent of the control scheme in Canvas Curse.  Granted it allows for a ton of freedom, but it also causes endless frustration.  How straight is your line?  How good is your timing?  How fast can you make the right shape?  It’s a really, really neat idea but it just doesn’t pan out because it’s too difficult to maintain the sort of surgical precision and nanosecond timing required to comfortably traverse each level.  The game is divided into 8 levels, which are in turn divided into 3 stages, and then each stage usually consists of 3 to 4 screens or areas.  Merely moving through each “screen” is a monumental endeavor.  The “lines” are used for everything from avoiding enemies to crossing games to shielding Kirby from spikes to climbing vertical corridors to pushing Kirby underwater (he floats!).  And damn.  It’s hard.

Kirby: Canvas Curse - DS

Navigating Kirby underwater is one of the most tedious and unrelenting tasks that Canvas Curse has to offer.

I don’t know if the problem is that the levels are poorly designed with regards to the mechanic or if the mechanic is inadequate for the levels.  Of course the result is the same either way; there’s a definite discrepancy between what’s expected and what’s realistically possible.  If people could draw perfect lines at the perfect time it’d be great, but it’s as if Canvas Curse omits the human element from the equation altogether.

Kirby: Canvas Curse - DS

Don’t forget the damn medals…wait, no, to hell with the medals.

Similar to other Kirby titles, one can just go through the levels from Point A to Point B, or they can shoot for 100% completion and collect all the hard to reach items.  Normally, I’m all about this when it comes to Kirby.  I love digging through every crack and crevice and experimenting with every Copy Ability available.  Canvas Curse features 3 hidden-ish medals in each stage; they’re often visible at some point but generally take some ingenuity to acquire.  I was in absolutely no rush to hunt these down.  I picked up a few along the way, but most of the time I was just ready to get these levels the hell over with.

Boss fights utilize the touchscreen and stylus in interesting ways as well, including a sort of pinball/break-out hybrid, a race, and drawing shapes quickly.  I’d actually consider these fights marginally more successful than the main game, though there are still issues with precision and timing.  Unfortunately, the final fight against Drawica is damn near impossible.  Ok, it’s not impossible, but it takes a good deal of planning and a deft hand with the line-making.

Kirby: Canvas Curse - DS

The levels have silly names like this to establish a theme, but the whole painting/color aspect is played up nicely.

Graphics and sound are about what one would expect from the DS in 2005, if not a touch better.  The colors are great (as they should be since the plot and gameplay are predicated around paint and color) and the scenery has the usual Kirby-esque whimsy and charm.  Some older DS games in particular have started to show their age, but Canvas Curse does a great job of displaying not only a multitude of colors but settings as well.

Kirby: Canvas Curse - DS

Canvas Curse does include a healthy degree of unlockable material such as different ink styles and the ability to play as Meta Knight…if you’re willing to track down enough medals…

The supplemental modes are fairly sparse this time around, consisting of little more than replaying the boss minigames and a “Rainbow Run” mode where the objective is the earn more medals by both moving through an area as quickly as possible and using as little ink as possible.  It’s not the greatest set of Kirby extras ever, though I have a feeling you’ll be more than ready to move on to something else by the time you’ve finished up this grueling exercise.

Canvas Curse isn’t an outright failure…but it isn’t quite the sweeping success that it should’ve been either.  Many gamers and critics have harped endlessly about the novel mechanics and “ingenious” control scheme, but I don’t think concept alone is enough to carry this to the top of the heap.  It’s too cumbersome to come naturally to anyone, and will indeed take a great degree of focus and practice in order to become truly proficient at.  The first 3 or 4 levels are fun, relatively speaking, but as the game wears on and the consequences of imperfect lines become more and more significant, quitting looms as the preferred alternative to finishing.

Despite the problems, I am eager to take a look at the proper sequel, the all new Rainbow Curse, to see just what tweaks and improvements have been made to the original formula.  In all honesty, Kirby: Canvas Curse is worth a look, simply because it is so damn innovative.  Whether or not this innovation will leave you giddy with the thought of a new approach to platforming or in tears over the inability to precisely execute is an entirely different matter altogether…

Written by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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  1. Steroid Gamer
    Steroid Gamer says:

    As of today, I’ve yet to play a Kirby game. Shamefully, I have Epic Yarn for the Wii that I haven’t touched. It’s a series that has, honestly, only interested me due to the fact it has been around for so many years.

    I don’t own a DS, but Kirby is slowly creeping up in my mind. One of these days Kirby…one of these days.

    • A lot of “hardcore” gamers will be dismissive of Kirby since the games aren’t very hard (present game excluded), but I think they’re a ton of fun. One of the things I like best is that, like Mario, there are layers to the gameplay. A 12 year old can whiz through and feel perfectly accomplished, while a 20 year old can take the same game and dig a little deeper to find all the little hidden items and unlockables.


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