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Plenty of DS titles, even original ones, barely make use of the hardware's unique features. This is not the case with Kirby Canvas Curse. The player uses the stylus to draw ramps onscreen. These ramps guide the now limbless puffball around expansive levels in search of power-ups and secret items, completely free of the D-pad or other conventional methods of input. You never directly control Kirby; he merely reacts to the paths you draw on the screen. Holy crap, this smells like innovation!
Canvas Curse plays like a mix of touchy-feely pinball and a typical Kirby title. Our pink pal retains the ability to suck up enemies and steal their powers, but the twist here is making sure Kirby survives the ride to the end of the game. There’s quite a bit of finesse involved: Kirby barrels forward like a kooshy, pink bowling ball, oblivious to his surroundings. Thus, it's up to you to draw a path that keeps him moving forward, circumnavigating hazards such as spiky bombs, strangely menacing waterfalls, and a near-endless supply of bottomless pits.
Of course, some troubles cannot be avoided; that's when things get physical. Most of the environment is interactive. Tapping the screen breaks blocks, shoots cannons and stuns enemies. You'll often need a specific power to make it through each area; for instance, you'll often need to double back to find an enemy who’s on fire. Once absorbed, that fire enables Kirby to light a wick that will detonate a wall, which is surrounded by even more enemies and destructible objects. It's this mixture of puzzle and action that keeps your fingers clamped on the stylus, hurriedly trying to get Kirby back to solid ground before your traced path evaporates.
Everything’s not dreamy in Dream Land, though. The stylus interface works, but making fine lines can be an irritation. See, touching Kirby causes him to dash forward, which is a pain when all you wanted was a small line very close to Kirby himself. The problem is intensified in water levels, where controlling a puffed up ball of air that wants to constantly rise is more of a chore than anything else. It makes sense in an unwanted-science-lesson kind of way, but that doesn’t mean it's fun to play.
These are minor issues that pop up a few times each session and are easily overlooked in light of how unique the game is. You've got a brand new way to interact with a game and a slew of unlockable minigames at your disposal, so there’s plenty to do even after Kirby has restored peace and order to his colorful world.
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