After last year's inventive yarn, Kirby goes back to the basics.
Kirby is always a highlight of E3. No matter what other flashing, frantic foolishness has dominated certain other appointments, I know I can count on Kirby to strip things down to the essentials - a big fat blob who moves to the right and eats whatever gets in his way. It's a recipe that's worked for over a dozen iterations and, while it lacks the intriguing environmental gimmick of last year's effort, it's clear there's still a lot of fun in the series.
I played through a couple of the game's levels in co-op at Nintendo's booth this year. The basics of the Kirby character are firmly in place here. He can squash himself flat, float through the air, and suck up any and everything in the environment and then either spit it back out in a powerful attack, or else swallow it and in some cases absorb unique powers. Swallow a knight, for instance, and you'll find Kirby is suddenly armed with a sword and helmet.
Other powerups are far more impressive. If you swallow certain objects, you can transform Kirby into a fire-breathing puffball. Watching as you incinerate row after row of round little enemies is darn fun. My favorite has to be the transformation of Kirby into Link, complete with giant sword and green cap. The sword here is clearly overpowered as it's able to clear every single enemy on the screen in a single swipe.
In addition to Kirby, you can have up to three friends join in, playing either as MetaKnight, King Dedede or Waddle Dee. The levels we played didn't seem to have the same fun interactions that we had throwing each other around in Epic Yarn, so as long as one player is accomplishing the objectives, everyone else is kind of just along for the ride. Smashing enemies and blocks, leaping over chasms, grabbing keys and such are all pretty par for the course, but when you do get four players on the screen at once, it gets very frantic.
The only real misstep is that Kirby's allies aren't nearly as versatile or powerful as he is. When he absorbs aspects of enemies and can clear an entire screen of enemies and obstacles, it makes King Dedede's sledgehammer seem a little pointless. Sure, each character has its own flavor, but there's a reason the game is called Kirby. I just wish the other characters had more to offer.
Still, Kirby Wii is undeniably fun and I'm excited to see what the rest of the game has to offer.