Games Review: Kirby Star Allies (Switch, 2018): You’ve Got A Friend In Me

Kirby Star Allies was so disgustingly cute that it made me want to vomit. From its charming and delightful characters to its friendship-based co-operative gameplay, everything about Star Allies is just plain adorable. When Kirby’s friends are low on health, he heals them by ‘kissing’ them, generating tiny love hearts across the screen. When presented with obstacles, Kirby and his friends form together to create super-powered friendship moves, including the Friendship Circle and Friendship Trains, each of which annihilate all enemies in your path.

Making friends and utilising their abilities to solve problems is the core gameplay function of Star Allies, and while it is possible to go alone, it’s usually better to take some friends. Each joycon can be used for local co-op, with each player controlling one of Kirby’s friends. Up to four friends can play together, working to defeat bosses and solve a variety of hidden challenges. Playing alone means that each friend you encounter is controlled by the CPU, although it doesn’t make the experience any less fun.

King Dedede is thicc now.

Throughout the game, players will encounter puzzles that require multiple friends, or the use of particular abilities such as Fire, Ice and Ninja, or a combination of these abilities to create weapons like the Sizzle Sword. Completing these challenges will often uncover rare shiny puzzle pieces, a key collectible in the game. My personal favourite of Kirby’s new abilities is his brand new wrestling abilities, which see him delivering bodyslams, suplexes, and superkicks to his enemies, all while wearing his stylish championship belt.

In classic Kirby fashion, the game relies on a distinct sense of minimalism to tell its story, with very little dialogue until the mid-point of the game. Instead, it tells the story of the dark Jamba Hearts and their psychic influence through the eyes of the Kirby and his pals (who, ironically, are also pawns of Kirby’s cursed influence, but I digress). The story is a familiar tale, but one told with such enthusiasm and delight that it still feels fresh and fun. You’ve played this game a dozen times before, but it still bears repeating.

While it’s great to form dream teams with your newly brainwashed friends, they often prove to be more trouble than they’re worth. First off, all your new friends are dumb. Like, really dumb. Jump-directly-into-a-fire dumb. Get-squashed-by-moving-walls dumb. Forget-to-fly-and-fall-to-your-death dumb. Basically, your friends are mildly incompetent, and trying to wrangle them can become a Sisyphean task. Unfortunately, you also need them, and when they work together, they can be an incredibly powerful force.

Players looking for a challenge may be disappointed by the sheer, overwhelming power of friendship featured in the game. Having all three friend slots filled makes Kirby’s team a powerful force, and one that will undoubtedly steamroll its way through the levels in Star Allies. As I played, I accumulated a grand total of 101 lives, and lost only two across the six hours of the game. Kirby Star Allies is an easy game, and some would argue that it’s simply too easy. What that means is it marks a perfect entry point for those new to the series and more importantly, would be a fantastic entry to classic platforming for younger kids.

It’s easy to assume that with its nostalgia-coloured glasses, Kirby Star Allies is a game made for older gamers and those who’ve had experience with the franchise before, but with its highly accessible gameplay and gorgeous aesthetic, the game offers to best pieces of Kirby history for all gamers. Taken as a love letter to the franchise, and as an introduction for newer gamers, Star Allies is the perfect title, combining everything loveable about classic Kirby adventures with new gameplay mechanics, characters and worlds.

In addition to the main story, Kirby Star Allies also comes with a range of delightful minigames, including Chop Champs, where you can compete against friends to chop trees down the fastest, and Star Slam Heroes, where you defend the Earth from meteors by destroying them with a hyper-powered baseball bat. These games are fun, if a little vapid, and provide a nice distraction from the main story, even if they do seem to be padding for a minimalist story.

While the game’s short length may prove a bugbear for some, Star Allies does everything within its power to make those six hours the most fun, enjoyable and rewarding hours you’ll play. With some great collectibles, superbly fun gameplay and disgustingly, adorably cute critters (and more on the way in upcoming DLC), the game was a welcome and enjoyable journey through the whimsy and fantasy of Kirby’s dreamlands.

Review Score: 8.0/10
Highlights: Cutesy characters; gorgeous aesthetic; fun gameplay
Lowlights: Minimal challenge; short length
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Out Now
Platforms: Nintendo Switch

Review conducted on Nintendo Switch with a pre-release code provided by the publisher.