Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy Color
  • Developer:
    • HAL
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 08/23/2000
    • US 04/11/2001
Score: 75%

This review was published on 03/20/2015.

Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble is an action puzzle video game developed by HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo for the Game Boy Color. It was released in Japan on August 23, 2000, and North America on April 11, 2001. In his main series, which are mostly platform games, Kirby is a pink puffball that eats his enemies to steal their powers. That's not the case for this game, as it's one of many spinoffs for the gluttonous blob. The unique thing about this game is the accelerometer built into the cartridge, which allows players to tilt their Game Boy Colors to affect what happens inside of the game's world. Because the sensors are inside of the cartridge, this game will even work in the backwards compatible Game Boy Advance. While the Game Boy Advance SP can also boot it, the game won't function properly, as the sensors are calibrated for the cartridge to be in the upright position, and the GBA SP has the cartridge slot at the bottom. The Game Boy Player also has issues, considering it has to be attached to the GameCube console. In any case, Nintendo is no stranger to hardware innovations, having done them practically since the beginning of time. The question is whether this hardware innovation improves the experience. It doesn't, but Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble is still a decent, well polished game.

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One day, Kirby was taking a nap on a fluffy cloud of fluffiness in his home world of Pop Star. You see, in the world of Kirby, clouds are solid objects that can be used as comfy beds. Just don't pee on one, or else you'll make somebody very unhappy when it rains. Anyway, Kirby is awoken by the commotion of a Waddle Dee, basic enemies from the Kirby series, passing on by. The Waddle Dee is carrying a strange, round, pinball bumper thing to an undisclosed location. Shortly thereafter, King Dedede, the antagonist of the early Kirby games, shows up carrying another bumper thing, this time of a different shape and size. Suspicious that the King is up to no good, Kirby hops onto a trusty Warp Star and proceeds to give chase. Eventually, Kirby realizes that his humble home of Dream Land has lost its stars and he embarks on a quest to reclaim them. Not an especially exciting story, but that's Kirby for you.

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This time, Kirby will utilize his roundness to roll around the surrounding environments. The catch is that you, the player, won't be able to use the tried and true control method of pressing buttons to move Kirby. Instead, you'll have to do as the game's title implies and tilt the handheld around to get the pink ball rolling. As one would expect, Kirby rolls in the direction you're tilting. If you flick the handheld upwards, it will make Kirby jump, cause certain panels to flip, and turn some enemies into items. Pressing the d-pad will pan the camera around, allowing you to see areas outside of your normal field of view. Just because the game primarily relies on tilting doesn't mean the buttons are of no use, though. The buttons are used to jump out of holes and interact with various gadgets in the environment, but of course, movement is almost entirely restricted to tilting. The tilt controls work surprisingly well considering the dated technology, but they're still nowhere near as accurate as a d-pad and buttons. In particular, flicking the Game Boy to jump is very hard to get used to. The cost in accuracy will cost you many lives in the harder stages of the game.

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Instead of the side-scrolling perspective of most Kirby games, this game goes with an overhead view. As such, Kirby has lots of room to roll around in. Despite that, the game still features linear level design, with the goal merely to reach the goal at the end of the stage alive. A big part of the challenge in this game comes from cautiously navigating Kirby around pits, avoiding stuff like bumpers that can bounce him to his death. There's also a good amount of overhead platforming, something that is made much harder than it should be due to the controls. New gimmicks and mechanics are introduced frequently enough to keep the game interesting throughout. For example, some stages will have special power-ups, like a balloon that gives Kirby the ability to fly and shoot projectiles for a brief period of time. Other stages have mesh floors Kirby can hide under to avoid enemies, and there's a stage where Kirby rides a raft across water. There are eight worlds with four stages each, making this game of a decent length. Also, a level select is available after you beat the game. Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble has some decent level design, even if it does get incredibly frustrating at times.

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The fourth stage of every world is a castle level, kind of like the original Super Mario Bros. The castle stages are structured a bit differently from the regular ones, in that they have simplistic puzzles to solve, usually involving the pressing of switches and the rousing of robots. An example of a common puzzle is one in which Kirby must quickly press several switches to make robots that are blocking the path to move out of the way. Most of the puzzles are about timing, so there is a greater focus on skillful tilting as opposed to smart thinking. There's also a little bit of exploration to the castles, making them somewhat less linear than the other stages. They're like highly simplified The Legend of Zelda dungeons, which makes sense given the overhead view. There are even keys hidden inside of treasure chests you occasionally need to find to open locked doors; an obvious nod to Zelda. The castles are a refreshing change of pace, as they break up the monotony of the normal game with their contrasting game play mechanics and darker atmosphere.

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At the end of every fourth stage in every world is a bossy boss. The way boss fights typically work is that there's stuff in the room that can be used to hurt the boss, like power-ups or gadgets. For instance, in most of the bosses, Kirby has to get into these holes and then launch himself out of them in the direction of the boss to damage it. Most of the time, the bosses don't hurt Kirby directly, and instead opt to push him into hazards like spikes or pits. There are really only three types of bosses in this game; giant eyeball things called Observers, the classic eyeball cloud monster from the Kirby series known as Kracko, and King Dedede himself. As you can see, this game has a thing for eyeballs. The game recycles the same two boss types repeatedly until the final boss, changing variables of the fight to make it more challenging each time. Fun as they are, it's disappointing that there aren't more unique bosses in this game.

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Mini-games await Kirby if he finishes a stage after acquiring a blue star. The blue stars are generally hidden, but they're not in all the stages. After finishing a stage with a blue star in tow, Kirby can pick one of five mini-games to play. Before each mini-game is a brief tutorial explaining the controls, as each one plays differently. The first mini-game is Kirby's Burst-a-Balloon, which has you tilting to aim at and shoot balloons with arrows, and you flick the Game Boy to reload ammo. Second on the list is Kirby's Hurdle Race, a simple game where you race against King Dedede by repeatedly tapping the button to run and flick the handheld to jump over hurdles. Game the third is Do the Kirby; essentially a dancing mini-game that mimics Simon Says. Kirby's Roll-o-Rama is the fourth game and it involves tilting the portable to roll all the Kirbys into holes. Last on the list is Kirby's Chicken Race, a game where you violently shake the Game Boy to charge the car engine and see how far Kirby will travel. You're rewarded for doing well at the mini-games with extra lives, so it's always worth it to do them. Some of the mini-games suck, like the boring Simon Says one, but some are okay.

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Red stars are the main optional collectible of the game. There is exactly one red star hidden in every stage in the entire game, for a grand total of 32 red stars. Some of the red stars are easily found by those that go off the beaten path, but many are so deviously hidden that they're nearly impossible to find without a guide. One strange mechanic that's usually used to find hidden red stars is to bounce Kirby between two bumpers rapidly until he starts glowing, at which point he'll destroy the bumpers, sometimes revealing a secret path. Collecting all the red stars unlocks hard mode, and getting all the red stars in hard mode unlocks your personal satisfaction. Hard mode is, obviously, a harder version of the same game, though the red stars are still in the same locations in this mode. There's enough replay value here to satisfy those that want to get a little more out of their game.

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Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble is a fun ride. Colorful graphics, chipper music, and decent design are this game's main strengths. Much of the game play revolves around delicately tilting the Game Boy, but this never gets old because the levels are constantly throwing new things at you. Successfully completing titillating tilting challenges is quite satisfying. The game can get extremely infuriating due to the imprecise nature of the tilt detection, though, especially on the harder levels. If you can get past that hurdle, then this is a worthy game to try out.

Word Count: 1,652

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