Kirby Planet Robobot Review: Space Adventures

Credit: Nintendo
Credit: Nintendo /

Kirby Planet Robobot brings outer-space robots to Pop Star and fits Kirby with a mech suit. But does Kirby distinguish himself with this new coat of chrome, or are the robots merely a technological gimmick?

Developer: HAL Laboratory

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Release Date: June 10, 2016

A glance over Nintendo’s offerings for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS in the coming months reveals slim pickings, as both systems enter their respective twilights. But HAL Laboratory has arrived to remind us that the 3DS isn’t done yet with a new adventure in the Kirby franchise; Kirby Planet Robobot.

More traditional than their last touchscreen-based game, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Kirby Planet Robobot sends the pink puffball on a 3D platforming adventure across the planet Pop Star, currently suffering from a robot invasion. The game’s primary advertised gimmick is a mech suit for Kirby, which he can enter and exit at specific points on multiple levels and “scan” enemies to gain mech-powered versions of their abilities. While the mech suit added its own spin to Kirby’s usual inflating and enemy-swallowing tactics, Kirby Planet Robobot‘s treasure is hidden elsewhere.

Kirby planet robobot
Credit: Nintendo /

First, let’s get the basics out of the way: this game is, at surface-level, bog-standard Kirby fare. That’s not a bad thing; it’s just largely predictable. Kirby travels through multiple levels over several themed worlds, defeating enemies and overcoming obstacles to reach the end of each level. Kirby’s primary power hasn’t changed–he still sucks up enemies, wears their hats, and gains their powers. Over 25 different abilities make an appearance, most from previous games, but three new hats are added to Kirby’s repertoire: Doctor, ESP, and Poison.

The mech-suit can also scan a limited portion of these enemies and gain robotic versions of these abilities. Many of the game’s puzzles revolve around using these abilities correctly. If you’re just powering through levels, it won’t matter all that much which hat you put on or which enemy you scan, but this is Kirby we’re talking about, here. Each level contains plenty of hidden collectibles locked away behind environmental puzzles. You’ll need to master Kirby’s full arsenal of hats and mech abilities to complete the game in full.

Kirby Planet Robobot seems made to be played in 3D, and may be one of the few games on the Nintendo 3DS to make full use of the device’s capabilities.

If you’re not already familiar with Kirby games, you may find it difficult to adjust to the mechanics. Aside from some button tutorials in the first level, there’s little explanation for the myriad of copy abilities and their uses (something veterans might appreciate). Trial and error will serve new players well as they get into the rhythm of each level, but if you feel overwhelmed at all the possibilities early on, you’re not alone.

All this would amount to a polished but safe Kirby adventure, if not for one other thing: Kirby Planet Robobot is a 3D game. I don’t mean it happens to use the Nintendo 3DS’s 3D, and it sometimes looks nice. I mean that Kirby Planet Robobot seems made to be played in 3D, and may be one of the few games on the Nintendo 3DS to make full use of the device’s capabilities.

Kirby planet robobot
Credit: Nintendo /

Most levels take place on two planes–the foreground and the background–with Kirby constantly swapping between the two via stars located throughout the level. Enemies appearing on one plane will frequently affect the other plane, shooting projectiles or swapping between the two, forcing you to pay attention to both planes at once. Obstacles such as swinging hammers, swimming sharks, and lasers will cross both planes and force you to think carefully and time your jumps so as not to run afoul of a laser with an unexpected angle.

Even the environment takes shots at you in 3D. Enormous ice cream cones are layered up in the background before being dropped, splattering the foreground and your screen. Oncoming traffic in city levels is visible in the distance before smashing Kirby into the front of the 3DS screen. There’s not a single level in the game that doesn’t use the 3D environments in some way, and many of those environments (the ocean level! My goodness!) look simply stunning to boot.

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Some people may lament that Kirby Planet Robobot is so 3D-intensive. I tried turning the 3D off at several points, which both detracted from the experience visually, and made it more difficult to traverse certain areas due to trouble figuring out where and when obstacles came into play. Playing the game on a New Nintendo 3DS with the device’s face-tracking, the short Story Mode didn’t once make me feel dizzy or give me a headache. Still, those prone to headaches and using the original 3DS for this game will, unfortunately, miss out on the most stellar part of the experience.

Kirby planet robobot
Credit: Nintendo /

Though the Story Mode doesn’t take long to complete (about eight hours if you’re not worried about collectibles), Kirby Planet Robobot successfully avoids the dearth of content that plagued Rainbow Curse. Along with all the collectibles and playable rewards for grabbing them, there are two mini-games included. Kirby 3D Rumble is a scoring contest where the player tries to suck up as many enemies as possible on a 3D plane, and Team Kirby Clash invites a total of four players via multiplayer or Download Play to defeat bosses together using an RPG-styled team of copy abilities. Between these and the Story Mode’s many secrets, Kirby Planet Robobot has plenty of additional content to hook you long after the story is complete.

8. <em>Kirby Planet Robobot</em> is a surprising gem of a game, one of the few on the 3DS to truly use the full range of the handheld’s 3D capabilities both for aesthetic and gameplay. Each level makes clever use of space to create unique visual puzzles, and Kirby’s wide range of copy abilities offers plenty of diverse and fun solutions. With plenty of replayability and tough, but forgiving challenges, <em>Kirby Planet Robobo</em>t deserves your attention. Don’t put down that 3DS yet.. HAL Laboratory. . Kirby Planet Robobot

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.