Kirby: Planet Robobot review
Kirby: Planet Robobot is not a name that inspires confidence. ‘Robobot’ doesn’t sound like a full concept so much as a child’s vocal tic, an adorable mispronunciation of ‘robot’ that gets brought up at family events well into their adulthood. It sounds like a filler title, a quick release to give hungry 3DS owners something to consider this June. The chintzy cover art of Kirby sitting inside a mech doesn’t help matters.
But while it may not exude effort or originality, Planet Robobot is an absolute delight to play. It’s a very traditional Kirby adventure for the most part, but with a whole heap of love poured into it. Planet Robobot follows the formula established by 2014’s also-great Kirby: Triple Deluxe: it’s a 2D platformer imbued with Kirby’s standard power-absorbing technique and some neat spatial gimmicks. Levels frequently let you jump between foreground and background via warp stars, so exploring and hunting down all the secrets hidden in each level often requires awareness of two different landscapes at once.
Planet Robobot also adds a mech to the formula, which actually fits into the game’s aesthetic and gameplay model surprisingly well. To me, Kirby has always been a bit of a bland figure, a pink blob whose most interesting trait is the way he can copy the enemies around him; shoving Kirby into a mech suit may not develop him as a character, but it sure does make for a fun image. The mech can absorb abilities as well, which are used in some interesting ways, including a few driving sections and Shoot-em-up-style levels where you briefly take to the skies and blast enemies.
The suit allows you to steamroll indiscriminately through large sections of the game, but Planet Robobot doesn’t prioritise difficulty. This is a very easy game almost all the way through, with the only real challenge coming from scouring the levels and solving the fairly simple puzzles required to find every (largely meaningless) collectable. But there’s actually something comforting and calming about how easy the game is, as it manages to be simple without ever condescending. It’s very rare that the game explicitly tells you what you need to do, and you’re only occasionally locked into certain powers, so there’s a great degree of freedom in how you tackle challenges.
What Planet Robobot aims for, above all else, is a fun experience. Some would argue that ‘fun’ is the primary objective of most games, but fun can be subjective, or understood differently by different people. Kirby’s latest adventure strips away plot and difficulty, for the most part, and focuses on the simple pleasure of moving through these environments, alternately causing mayhem and exploring.
It’s clear that HAL wants this game to be enjoyed and understood by anyone who picks it up. The difficulty does ramp up right at the end, and the final boss goes in an incredibly unexpected, fantastic direction, but the game’s check-pointing and health systems are generous enough to ensure that just about any player can get there. Planet Robobot may not be up there with the best Mario games, and it’s nowhere near as intricate as a game like Yoshi’s Island, but the smiles-per-minute rate here is tremendous. There are just so many fun ideas and moments scattered throughout, and nary a dud level to be found.
For all the joy it provides, though, Planet Robobot is a short game: we’re talking five hours and change to finish all thirty levels, defeat all the bosses, and watch the end credits. There are bonus modes and games to play through as well, which test your abilities more than the main campaign does, but ultimately, I only found one of these extras particularly interesting (Meta Knightmare Returns, a mode where you play through numerous levels and encounters again as Meta Knight, with boss difficulty ramped up and extremely limited checkpoints).
There’s a bit more meat for completionists who want to unlock absolutely everything, including a handful of extra stages that unlock if you find all the hidden ‘cubes’ in each set of levels, but I’d wager that most players are going to put the game down once the credits roll, either passing it on to a younger family member (who will love it, trust me) or trading it back in.
Like so many people with online dating profiles, Kirby: Planet Robobot is here for a good time, not a long time. It’s a few hours of pure delight that will no doubt be forgotten down the track, a somewhat disposable title that nevertheless serves as another example of why so many people love Nintendo so much. The 3DS is at the point in its lifespan where a lot of titles are going to look and sound like release calendar filler, but Planet Robobot never feels lazy or phoned-in. It’s a confection, but that doesn’t stop it from being yet another great Nintendo platformer.