Star Allies is an easy recommendation for kids.
Nintendo has often been known to get wildly experimental with its pink puffball of a mascot (often to the detriment of the quality of the games), but there are other times when they are puzzlingly, disappointingly safe with games starring Kirby. Star Allies, which marks the franchise’s debut on the Nintendo Switch, and the first major original game released by Nintendo on their console this year, falls in the latter camp- it’s more or less iterative on the co-op sidescrolling platforming formula the series has followed for a while, now. For better or for worse, Star Allies is more Kirby.
To be absolutely fair, there’s a lot going in Star Allies that keeps things fresh- you can play with your friends, or by yourself. There’s a host of interesting enemies for you to appropriate powers from. You can even turn enemies to your cause, and still get access to their powers. The levels are well designed, colorful, and immediately pleasing. Combat is easy, but satisfying. As Kirby games go, Star Allies is well made, and near the top of the bunch in terms of sheer quality.
You have here a game that looks great- Kirby has always had a pleasant and cheery bubblegum aesthetic that is the kind of thing that kids will latch on to right away, and with Star Allies, that aesthetic shines like it never has before. Which makes sense, given that this is, in fact, actually the first time we have seen Kirby in HD- or at least, Kirby proper. Technically, the Wii U got a Kirby game (not to mention Smash Bros., which starred Kirby too), but this is the first time we have seen an actual mainline Kirby game in HD. The traditional aesthetic shines here.
"Even if no one else joins in, Kirby Star Allies is easy enough that most children should have no problem making their way through the game- indeed, as one of the first games to introduce a younger player to, there are few better candidates than a Kirby game, and none more so than Star Allies."
Another area where the game does shine is in its inclusion of co-op- as mentioned previously, you can have others join in any time you want to assist you with progressing through the game. Now, the thing here is, like all Kirby games, Star Allies borders on being so easy that it can be actively off-putting- and getting more help is really the last thing you want then. But that said, this is a wonderful feature for something like families or kids- a parent or an older sibling can easily join in with a young child and play with them together, having some nice times along the way. Even if no one else joins in, Kirby Star Allies is easy enough that most children should have no problem making their way through the game- indeed, as one of the first games to introduce a younger player to, there are few better candidates than a Kirby game, and none more so than Star Allies.
It does help to think of Star Allies in terms of what I assume is its intended demographic, because for more engaged, sophisticated players, a lot of the game can be incredibly frustrating. As mentioned previously, the game is incredibly easy. Mechanics lack nuance (though there are, thankfully, a lot of them), and are extremely forgiving. The levels are usually fairly straightforward, and can be completed without demanding much engagement or thought. Battles and combat are a simple affair. The game is extremely short, with only four worlds (two of which are retreads). Indeed, if you are a long time Kirby fan, or a lapsed Nintendo gamer who bought the Switch and wants to check out its next major release, you will almost certainly come away disappointed from this game.
But thinking of this in terms of a game for a younger player, simplistic mechanics or linear levels, or easy combat, or a shorter game length, or even levels repeated from previous titles in the series, don’t actually act as knocks against the game- in fact, most of these make the game ideally suited for young kids. This is, as I said, traditional Kirby– and really, Kirby has always been stress free gameplay and platforming. It was, in fact, literally created to be someone’s first experience with games, and Star Allies is a fine realization of that vision, if nothing else.
"But since this is ultimately just Kirby at its core, without any novelties to add wrinkles to the mix, all the age old problems with the franchise stand, and can detract from the gameplay."
But since this is ultimately just Kirby at its core, without any novelties to add wrinkles to the mix, all the age old problems with the franchise stand, and can detract from the gameplay. Apart from the various issues already listed above, you will also have to contend with a maddeningly catchy soundtrack, where the music isn’t good, just grating, of the sort that gets stuck in your head. There are puzzles you will run into, which can hardly be qualified as such, given how obvious they are. Even collectibles, which have traditionally been where the challenge has been in Kirby, are fairly easy this time. Online co-op is not supported- which, as I said, kinda makes sense in the context of what the game is intended to be, but when did options ever hurt anyone? Even the allies system, which lets you enlist enemies to your side, feels woefully underutilized, because the game never does anything interesting with it, either mechanically or in terms of the level design- it’s just there, mostly to make things easier than they already are.
In the end, Star Allies is… well, the truth of the matter is, if you’re a series fan, you’re probably going to find this game disappointing. The central hook here is undercooked, and the rest of the package is disappointingly safe and iterative, with a lot of it retreading familiar ground, much to its detriment. On the other hand, younger gamers are bound to be delighted and enthralled by this colorful game, with an endearing cast of friends and foes, and a title that they can actually come to grips with and stand a chance at completing. If you have kids, Star Allies is as obvious a recommendation as they come- they will love to play it, either solo, or with you, and it will lead to some great times and memories for everybody. On the other hand, seasoned gamers and long time Kirby fans won’t find much that is substantial here. Maybe, given what Kirby is, that’s okay.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
It looks great and has an infectious soundtrack, is easy to come to grips with, has spontaneous drop-in co-op, and is a great game to introduce younger players to
It's way too easy and staightforward to have any nuance for more sophisticated players, it is very short, it lacks challenge, that soundtrack is maddeningly catchy
If you have kids, Star Allies is as obvious a recommendation as they come- they will love to play it, either solo, or with you, and it will lead to some great times and memories for everybody. On the other hand, seasoned gamers and long time Kirby fans won't find much that is substantial here.