If there's any mascot in Nintendo's stable who most deserved a moment to shine, it's most definitely Kirby. The pink puffball has been around since the days of the NES, but he has never quite had a breakout title in the ensuing generation of consoles. Fortunately, the little guy seems to have caught a break with his latest adventure, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror for the Game Boy Advance. This original title, developed by Japanese studio Flagship under the watchful eye of Hal Laboratories (Kirby's originators), offers a fresh spin on the franchise's trademark gameplay. While the game isn't as slick as it probably could be, it still offers an engaging platforming experience that makes for a great time.
Kirby is back and he's bringing some friends to save Dreamland.
Kirby & the Amazing Mirror's story is taken straight from the old-school canon of plots: trouble comes to our hero's homeland and he must save the day. However, there's a Four Swords-like twist to the proceedings that keeps the game from being yet another by-the-numbers platformer. The story begins in Dreamland, Kirby's home, or rather, in the sky above it. A magical mirror, which usually reflects people's wishes, is invaded by a dark force that causes it to reflect only bad things. One of Dreamland's local heroes, Meta Knight, heads into the mirror to set things right. The end result? One shattered mirror and a dark version of Meta Knight, who stumbles into our rotund hero as he goes about his happy business. Kirby finds himself split into four different-colored versions: pink, green, yellow, and blue. Despite the unsettling turn of events, the hero takes his colorful trio with him into the mirror to make things right and to collect the shards of it that have fallen off.
The basic structure of the game takes an open-ended approach to the adventure that's big on variety and thin on linearity. You'll start out in a hub and you will have to enter smaller mirrors that serve as portals to the different levels in the game. Within each level in the game you'll find different paths that lead to other mirrors, which send you to new sections of the level or to entirely new areas. While the mazelike layout can be a bit daunting, a map feature will let you get your bearings, although it won't shed any light on finding the alternate paths within each level. As you make your way through, you'll face off against assorted bosses, each of which holds one of the shards you need to collect.
As always, Kirby will come packing a modest arsenal of moves that can be upgraded to suit any challenge. Kirby's core moves are as basic as it gets for action heroes: he can jump, fly for short periods of time, blow air puffs, and inhale objects and enemies. But when his inhalation ability lets him absorb the abilities from certain enemies, the little unassuming puffball becomes a butt kicker of Terminator-like proportions. You'll find more than 20 enemies in the game whose abilities you can hoover up and use in your adventure, which will offer you a good degree of freedom in how you tackle the game. The new twist to the formula is that the three other Kirbys will be along for the ride. You'll be able to use your cell phone to call them in for a helping hand when you're in a bind, provided you have enough battery power and reception. Your trio of helpers varies in usefulness, depending on the situation and due to their lack of smarts when you're playing in single-player mode. Your pack of Kirbys don't handle like the extra Links in Four Swords (you can't really take manual control of them individually or get them to move in formation), but you'll find places where you'll need the extra bodies to trigger switches or deal with enemies. The situation is improved somewhat when you're playing cooperatively with a friend, but then you have to deal with lending your friend extra lives out of your stockpile if they run out of theirs.