For better or worse, Kirby is Nintendo’s most consistent franchise. New entries come often, and they don’t stray too far from the “pretty good” mark in either direction. On that scale of inoffensiveness, Star Allies rests a bit on the low end, offering a bland Kirby experience with few new mechanics.
The premise this time around is evil things are invading Dream Land and Kirby must expel them by grabbing some friends and beating up bad guys. The twist for Star Allies is Kirby can throw hearts at select enemies to add them to his team. It can be played cooperatively with up to three others, but if you play alone, A.I. controls the partners. The game delivers standard-but-unsurprising Kirby action, but the final boss does stand out as a large and interesting finale – though I won’t spoil it here.
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The option to play with friends is nice, and the Switch’s Joy-Con setup makes jumping in and out of cooperative play easy, but the overall design suffers tremendously from the multiplayer options. Having four players makes combat a cakewalk. Kirby and pals steamroll their way through every encounter, and every boss is a breeze. As a series, Kirby titles are generally designed to be friendly to younger players, but when gingerly tapping the attack button without any regard for position or stolen ability is enough to complete any objective, it gets boring. Having A.I. partners makes things ridiculously easy, as they do most of the work; they can even solve puzzles for you before you get a chance to consider the solutions.
The last two mainline 3DS Kirby titles, Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot, proved Kirby is capable of interesting level design, but Star Allies plays out as a series of flat, horizontal slogs. Apart from a few barrel-blasting sequences (in the style of Donkey Kong Country) and moments where Kirby and his partners roll along as one giant ball, you won’t find much to do other than move from left to right.
Star Allies gets credit for a great soundtrack, great controls, and an epic finale. Even if the visuals are the epitome of generic Kirby, they look sharp. HAL delivers a polished Kirby experience here that plays well, but it ultimately amounts to a forgettable adventure that demands so little from the player that I sometimes felt like I was barely involved at all.