Kirby games are generally conceived as kinder, gentler platformers. Not easy, but not punishingly hard either. Kirby Star Allies for the Nintendo Switch is no exception. While the narrative gets weirdly dark at times, the gameplay stays generally friendly.
Kirby Star Allies Plays Well With Others…
The story of Kirby Star Allies is super basic. Some weird anime-looking characters have been attacking people (including King Dedede), and after Kirby knocks some sense into some of them, they see a weird spooky looking black crystal heart fly away. Kirby and friends follow to see what’s up.
That “and friends” part leads into the main new gameplay mechanic – Kirby is flying with a crew of three other companions. These friends can either be special friends obtained at certain locations, enemies in the levels, and some bosses (including King Dedede). In single player these characters are controlled by the AI, in couch co-op they can be controlled by other players with their own joycons. This is on top of the usual Kirby mechanics like sucking up enemies and stealing their powers or spitting them back at other enemies.
On top of this, if you have a full party, you get various Friendship moves that will be used at various portions of the level to traverse various obstacles. You can also combine attacks, either as a modifier (charging up a weapon with an elemental attack), or special attack that can hit multiple enemies, or clear obstacles or switches (like launching a teammate across the screen like a curling stone).
…But sometimes runs with scissors
This is not without issues. The screen can get extremely busy. On multiple occasions, I lost track of where Kirby was on screen. This occurred while docked and while undocked. So, this isn’t an issue of reduced screen real estate making it more difficult to track the action.
Additionally, the game’s AI has some issues. While AI controlled friends can clear some obstacles without too much prompting, the process of lining up a combo attack can be counterintuitive. Additionally, when not in combat with a boss, allies will tend to stay behind Kirby, which can lead to them taking additional damage or even being killed by enemies and level obstacles that you personally could avoid. Finally, while you can revive fallen allies, AI-controlled allies cannot revive you. Normally, I wouldn’t consider this a problem – as the game has a plentiful supply of extra lives, which I assume are shared among players in co-op. However, the checkpointing on a few boss fights can be a little rough, making the lack of a revive frustrating.