It’s a niche almost exclusively propped up by indie developers (shout-out to culinary stress-fest Overcooked), leaving a big, fun-filled, collaborative hole missing at the top. Enter Kirby. The Nintendo Switch’s latest big-name title, Kirby Star Allies is built for local, collaborative, co-op play.
The very mechanics of a good co-op game are what set it apart. You have allies. You combine your powers to defeat computer-controlled foes. You can get new abilities and combine these in interesting ways. In Star Allies this is achieved by lobbing around hearts and sucking up baddies to either enlist their help or take on their skills. Combine one power with another and unexpected things happen. It’s like a giant, side-scrolling chemistry set. Combine ice and rock and ta-dah, ice curling! It’s a genius trick borrowed from Kirby 64 and one well worth reviving.
This change in mechanics changes how you play a game and how you socialise. A friend will go floating up into the sky and ask you to follow; at which point, you’ll combine powers and delight in uncovering a secret. All the fun in Star Allies is created as a result of the chaos of playing it with other people. Heck, the game dedicates a whole button for befriending enemies. It never does anything else, it just makes you lob a heart and add a new companion to your merry troop. Do this in multiplayer, and anyone can become pretty much any enemy. Do it when playing on your own and the computer takes control of your new friend.
From start to finish, this game is joyously old-fashioned and oddball – a splendid 90s throwback that slams together saccharine, sass and your social life. It’s all about people playing together in the same physical space. You only realise how few games do this when you play one that does and within minutes wonder where it’s been all your life. There are, of course, parallels with the superb New Super Mario Bros. series and Yoshi’s Woolly World – a Switch sequel for which is already in development).
Read more: My 12-year-old is already well and truly hooked on Nintendo Labo
Sure, Star Allies might be a bit easy, but that’s part of the point. Play it with your friends, play it with your kids, play it with your niece and your nephew. Want a more challenging co-op romp? Pick up a copy of the mellifluous and tricksy Rayman Legends or crack out LittleBigPlanet.
Tag: Kirby Star Allies