Parents need to know that Kirby: Planet Robobot is a cartoonish side-scrolling platformer with mild cartoon violence. Players control a little pink blobby character who attacks similarly blobby enemy characters and robots with a variety of weapons and abilities, including swords, flames, and pointy parasols. He can also enter a robot that has a strong punching attack and provides a noticeable boost to his other abilities. Enemies simply flash and disappear once defeated. The simple story about fighting off mechanical invaders doesn’t attempt to dig too deeply into character motivations and doesn’t act as an allegory for anything in our world; it’s just good guys versus bad guys. Parents should also be aware that this game supports certain amiibo figurines, such as Waddle-Dee, which are sold separately.
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WHAT’S IT ABOUT? KIRBY: PLANET ROBOBOT puts players in control of Nintendo’s cute pink puffball in a traditional side-scrolling platformer adventure. Evil robots have invaded Kirby’s home world, and it’s up to him to save the day. He does this in ways both familiar and new. He can still open his mouth and inhale to suck up his foes, then either spit them out as projectiles or swallow them to copy their abilities. That’s how he comes to wield a bow, a sword, and a magic whip and transforms into stone statues. Players can also use certain amiibo figurines to instantly give Kirby unique abilities; for example, Waddle-Dee’s parasol can be used as both a weapon and a parachute. And for the first time, he can hop into and pilot a big robot capable of lifting heavy objects and punching through barriers. It also functions as a suit of armor and enhances the abilities he copies. For example, in his robot suit his little sword becomes a pair of giant arm blades capable of defeating most enemies with a single swipe. Beyond the story mode, players can play a class-based RPG-like mini-game in which groups of up to four players connect wirelessly to take on bosses as a team, as well as a 3-D adventure mode composed of a series of small square environments in which Kirby has to fight off waves of enemies while collecting coins. IS IT ANY GOOD? It’s not particularly long, but this friendly adventure is a blast while it lasts. The instantly intuitive controls make players want to experiment with Kirby’s ability to copy his enemies’ powers and see how they can be used. And while his new robot suit makes him move a bit more slowly, it’s also satisfyingly powerful. You’ll feel all but invincible as you bash your way through obstacles and enemies. In fact, it almost makes parts of some levels feel too easy. But that’s OK, since players will still be fairly challenged to find cleverly hidden secret stickers and code blocks, the latter of which are required to unlock boss levels. And it looks great, too. While play may be limited to moving left and right (and can sometimes dive between foreground and background layers), the lush cartoon graphics have a richness that conveys a wonderful sense of depth. The bonus content is fun while it lasts, too, though it’s not particularly deep. The 3-D adventure serves mostly as a tease for what a full-fledged 3-D Kirby game could be, and the role-playing quest is only fun if you happen to have two or three friends — each with their own 3DS — with whom to play. Players are likely to get more out of the unlockable Meta Knightmare Returns mode, which lets them play through the story mode again as Kirby’s pal Meta Knight. Still, even if played only for the main story mode, Kirby: Planet Robobot is a portable gaming experience worth having. FAMILIES CAN TALK ABOUT… Families can talk about screen time. It’s easy for kids to lose themselves in portable games when parents aren’t paying attention, but what sorts of limits does your family place on hand-held game time? Are they reasonable? Families can also talk about how to control the amount of money they spend on toys-to-life accessories. With more than 100 amiibo now available, players could spend $1,000 and still not own them all, so how do you choose which amiibo to buy without going overboard?