I can see it now…
HAL Laboratories Guy: Well, it’s that time of the year again, about time for one of them puzzle games to come out.
Nintendo Guy: You know, Hal Laboratories Guy, you’re right. Let’s make one, right now.
HAL Laboratories Guy: Now, sir?
Nintendo Guy: Yeah, sure. You know that programming stuff, that alien gibberish, right? Doesn’t your company own the rights to some kind of cute ball thing?
HAL Laboratories Guy: Well…yeah, but I don’t see what that has to do with a puzzle game…
And that, my friends, is exactly the problem with Kirby’s Star Stacker. Hopefully the makers learned a lesson after the game’s release; a game can’t sell with only a cute ball thing’s sponsorship. Kirby’s Star Stacker is essentially a generic puzzle game that’s been graced by Kirby’s timeless presence.
Before the game begins, the player is treated to a little animation of Kirby floating gleefully out of his little house, hopping on a star, and rocketing towards the camera. I was told somewhere by someone that this game had a plot, but I didn’t really see much. From what I can put together, it seems that Kirby is involved in some kind of star stacking competition with that wily Dedede. I’m certainly not a Kirby aficionado, so this Dedede character just seemed like some kind of creepy duck thing looking to do weird things to Kirby with those stars. I mean, who else would want to hurt that cute little puff thing?
Anyway, once the game is started, you’re presented with a few options. There’s a nice little tutorial on how to play, a time attack mode, challenge mode, vs. mode for two players, and a round-clear mode, which is basically the story mode. Each mode ranges in difficulty from normal to insane, with about three others in-between. Normal mode might seem like it’s spoon-feeding you in the beginning, but later in the game it gets harder. And insane…it’s pretty insane. Challenge mode on normal or hard is probably the way to get used to the game.
Gameplay itself seems a lot like your classic Tetris or Dr. Mario. There are three blocks, which the game refers to as “friends.” I really don’t see how Kirby can consider them friends when he’s using hundreds of these so-called “friends” to stack on top of each other and consequently make them vaporize. Some friend Kirby is! Each friend, when stacked next to another of its kind, either horizontally or vertically, eliminates the two. The twist comes when star blocks are placed amongst the blocks. They act as connectors between different friend blocks…so if you have two hamsters with a star in the middle, the three will disappear and you earn some points. You get points for each star you eliminate. Then, of course, you can set up sweet combos resulting in tons of points and star destruction.
If you’re looking for another Game Boy puzzler besides the standards like Tetris, give Kirby’s Star Stacker a shot, especially if you like Kirby. In the puzzle category, the plumber who’s a doctor has got the ball in his court, despite Kirby‘s sorta noble effort.