Kirby's Avalanche
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developers:
    • HAL
    • Compile
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • UK 02/01/1995
    • US 04/25/1995
Score: 75%

This review was published on 01/31/2015.

Kirby's Avalanche is a puzzle video game developed by HAL Laboratory and Compile and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released in Europe on February 1, 1995, and North America on April 25, 1995. This game originally had nothing to do with Kirby and was initially released in Japan as Super Puyo Puyo on December 10, 1993. Nintendo and Compile teamed up to give the game a Kirby themed facelift to bring it over to Western audiences, in an attempt to make it more palatable for the new demographic. The game play remains completely unchanged, but the graphics, music, and dialogue were all drastically altered to fit into the Kirby canon. While not a true Kirby game, Kirby's Avalanche is still a decent puzzle game if you enjoy the Puyo Puyo series of puzzlers.

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King Dedede challenged all of Dream Land to a battle of wits. Kirby, the heroic hero of his own series and the protagonist of this game, gladly accepts this challenging challenge. The challenge is named after the game's title, which changes depending on the localization. In North America, the game is called Kirby's Avalanche, but in Europe, the game is known as Kirby's Ghost Trap. Therefore, the North American game has Kirby taking on the Avalanche Competition, whereas the European version is all about the Ghost Trap Competition. Of course, the Japanese version has absolutely nothing to do with Kirby and instead revolves around little girls. Japan sure has a thing for little girls, don't they? Anyway, Kirby has to battle his way through the forest and into the Dream Fountain to win the prized Ghost Trap or Avalanche Cup. It's not a terribly creative premise, but that's puzzle games for you.

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The basic game play is identical to the Puyo Puyo games, so if you've played those, then this should be familiar to you. Just like those games, this game revolves around manipulating falling blobs in a sorry attempt to match like colors. Two blobs that are stuck together fall down at a time, and they can be moved by the d-pad and rotated by pressing buttons. To eliminate blobs from your screen, you must match four or more of the same color at a time. The more you match at a single time, the better it is for you. Same colored blobs can be matched from all four sides, and nearby blobs will stick together, giving a visual signal as to how they're being matched. If the screen gets stacked with too many blobs, you lose, so you need to continue eliminating blobs at a steady pace to prevent that from happening. This is very similar to Tetris, except it's about matching colors instead of forming lines. The basic rules are simple, but mastering the game takes plenty of practice.

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The primary mode of play in Kirby's Avalanche is aptly called competition. In this mode, you will compete against increasingly difficult computerized opponents. Both you and the computer will have to eliminate blobs, and just like in any of the other modes, losing occurs when the screen totally fills up with blobs. The last one standing wins. You first select from easy, normal, and hard, though this is slightly misleading, as you're not actually selecting the difficulty mode. Rather, you're selecting which stage you'll start from; selecting normal starts you on the first stage, selecting hard has you starting stage four, and easy puts you through a couple of tutorial stages before beginning the main game. Before each match, Kirby will exchange a few words with his opponent. This is pointless, but mildly amusing. A nice touch is how each opponent audibly says its name via a cute voice clip. There are also occasional voice clips during matches, though Kirby has a girl's voice, for some reason. These voice clips are surprisingly clear, especially considering that this is SNES hardware, so they're actually kind of nice. The silly dialogue and amusing voice clips have no direct impact on game play, but they make this mode slightly more entertaining than it should be.

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Forming chains is an integral part of the game. In order to form a chain, one must eliminate blobs in such a fashion as to cause other automatic eliminations. What's the point of chains, though? Well, forming chains will send garbage blobs to your opponent's screen. The bigger your chain, the more garbage blobs get sent to the opponent. These garbage blobs do nothing but get in the way, so they make life tougher for the person that has to deal with them. If the chain is big enough, it can be virtually impossible for the victim to make a comeback. Sometimes a single chain is all it takes to win. Matches will be decided by the player that can form the largest chain in the shortest amount of time. Unlike other puzzlers like Tetris Attack, you have to work really hard to get a chain going in this game; a single chain requires lots of careful planning. The reason for this is because it takes four blobs create a match, and therefore, it takes way more to start a chain. Getting that many blobs to work in your favor is time consuming, and time is fleeting. The long windedness of forming chains in this game may deter you if you're not used to it.

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Other modes include a practice and versus mode. Practice is a mode that, as its name implies, allows you to practice your blob bursting skills. This is comparable to the endless mode of other puzzle games, but with an unusual name change. Basically, practice mode features a never ending barrage of falling blobs, and your aim is to get the highest possible score before losing. A nice feature of this mode is the fact that you can play it with two players, though it isn't competitive. As for the infamous versus mode, it's really just the same thing as competition mode, except you play against a pal instead of the computer. If you're a big fan of this game and have friends who share in your fandom, then this is likely where you will spend most of your time. Nothing beats beating a pal in a friendly match of matching puzzling blobs. Lastly, there's an options menu where you can change basic settings, like the difficulty. Sadly, there are no other additional modes. The lack of variety in available modes is a tad disappointing.

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Kirby's Avalanche is an avalanche of colors. The graphics are pleasing to the eye, the music is pleasing to the ear, and the game play is pleasing to the mind. That is, if your mind likes puzzles. Even though this is basically Puyo Puyo with a new coat of paint, it's still pretty good. I mean, Puyo Puyo is pretty good, and this is essentially that, so yeah. However, while Puyo Puyo is one of the better puzzle games out there, it's not for everyone. The game is a bit slow paced and setting up chains requires a lot of patience, which is something that some won't appreciate. Barring personal preferences, Kirby's Avalanche stands tall with other famous puzzlers like Tetris and Dr. Mario. If you like blobs, then you'll like this game.

Word Count: 1,224

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