Kirby fans will get a double dose of pink puffball cuteness as Kirby Mass Attack and the new Kirby game for the Wii are both scheduled to come out later this year. However, Kirby Mass Attack takes the series in a new direction, allowing you to control up to 10 Kirbies at a time with your stylus. Instead of stomping through the world and inhaling anything that gets in your way, you tap and swipe to swarm foes or knock them over. It may be different from what you're used to, but the effusive charm and fun unlockables might win you over.
In our previous demo, we mainly stayed within the confines of world one. It gave us a chance to mess around and get used to the touch-only controls because we needed those skills once we made it to the later stages in worlds two and three. You'll start with a single Kirby in each world, but your army (and not your waistline) expands as you digest an assortment of tropical fruit and earn points. Having a full crew of 10 definitely makes things easier, but there are parts of the level where you need a minimum number of Kirbies to proceed or access secret stuff. Medals are hidden throughout the levels and are key to unlocking optional content. Extras can range from a sound mixer to a photo album, but we were shown a game called Strato Patrol, which was a shoot-'em-up that had Kirby as the firing ship. As you dodge enemies and fire madly to collect tomatoes and save other Kirbies, you'll expand your team until you have all 10 firing simultaneously.
As for the main game, you spend most of your time tapping and dragging your team of pink marshmallows to safety. These guys are ferocious, though, when faced with an obstacle. Tapping on an unsuspecting foe will get them to flock to your target and punch furiously until the enemy goes away. Some creatures can't be taken down by the sheer force of cuteness though; you'll have to look for weak spots and exploit them. The levels themselves weren't too hard to navigate, but things did get trickier underwater. Controlling a massive herd with a ticking air meter while dodging underwater hazards can get a little hairy, which is why you'll likely make use of the double-tap to dash and hold the stylus down to highlight all the Kirbies and draw a safe path for them.
Things really start to get crazy during boss battles. Granted, they all have a pattern that you'll get used to, but it's much harder to get out of the way when you're moving a group. There are some interesting uses for your mob in situations like using its weight to rotate blocks or flinging the little guys up at balloons with timed bombs inside and making sure they detonate away from your team. At one point in the game, we even had to use our entire crew to man an extra-large fishing pole and then tap at the right moment to see what we caught.
It's tough not to be drawn to these adorable fluffballs, especially when you have 10 of them. But, having more than one hero doesn't mean that it gets easier. Managing a group always comes with its own set of challenges, and the later levels require much more precision than random taps. Luckily, you do have a second chance; if you're hit, your Kirbies will turn blue first, and if they are hit again, they'll turn into angels, but you have a chance to grab them back before they float off into oblivion. Giant rings are available throughout the level for you to fling your Kirbies through, which will bring the healthy color of pink back to your troops.
Kirby Mass Attack is already released in Japan for the Nintendo DS, but North American players can expect the game to ship on September 19.