Kirby has always been one of Nintendo's quirkier characters. After all, he inhales enemies and copies their abilities. He's also been the star of some of Nintendo's experimental titles, including Kirby: Canvas Curse, Kirby Mass Attack, and Kirby's Dream Course. Kirby's Block Ball is another example of Nintendo's creativity, putting the pink puffball in a breakout-style game.
North American Box Art, courtesy of Kirby Wiki.
There isn't much of a story to speak of in Block Ball. Kirby enters a contest, and everyone else that's part of the contest wants to kill him. So Kirby gets mad, turns into a ball, and attempts to defeat every enemy with your help. Not much a for plot, but it at least explains why Kirby is where he is.
If you're familiar with games like Arkanoid, you'll feel right at home with Block Ball. At the start of a level, you aim Kirby and shoot him off to attack the blocks and enemies occupying the stage. White blocks take one hit, gray blocks take two. In addition to standard blocks, there are Star Blocks in the fourth level of each world (more on those in a moment), enemies on each stage, score blocks (which can net 6,350 points each), indestructible blocks, bonus chances, and dark gray blocks (more on those below).
Block Ball consists of eleven worlds. The first ten worlds consist of five levels each. The first three are standard breakout levels. Destroy all of the blocks to advance. Enemies roam the stages, but defeating them is not required to advance (though they do net you bonus points). The fourth stage contains one mini-boss and a series of Star Blocks (which can be destroyed in one hit each). Once you defeat the enemy, a warp star comes and whisks you away to the boss.
The boss stages are pretty straightforward. There are paddles on three or four walls, each with a floor of spikes below them. For each Star Block you collected in the previous stage, a block will cover some of the floor on the boss stage, which is a big help. Defeating each boss (which requires multiple hits) nets you a cool 50,000 points and sends you back to the world map. Each world has a score threshold, and if you surpass it on each world, you open up the eleventh world, where the challenges are more difficult and the last boss, King Dedede, takes more hits than his previous minions (and requires more strategy to defeat).
A typical stage. Image courtesy of Nintendo.
Getting the score threshold in each world is challenging, though not impossible if you use power-ups wisely. Some enemies give Kirby some of his traditional abilities. The fireball shoots Kirby straight up to the top of the screen, the stone drops him to the bottom, the spark keeps Kirby on his normal path but lets him shoot through regular blocks, and the needle lets Kirby stick to the paddles, letting you re-aim him. All of these power-ups can destroy some indestructible blocks, netting you even more points. Each life you hold at the end of the world also nets you 1,000 points each, and there are bonus games hidden in each world that can earn you up to three lives each. You'll also need to make the most of the 30-second bonus chances when they arise, as they can net you huge points.
The game controls well enough, though the physics are tough to get ahold of. Move the paddles with left and right (horizontal) and up and down (vertical), and you will need to do both in some stages. Press the A button to launch Kirby into the air, and tap the A button again when Kirby comes into contact with the paddle to send him flying at a high speed in his "normal" form. He can destroy dark gray blocks while flying at high speed, and those give you 500 points each. The B button activates your special power if you've earned one.
Block Ball looks and sounds like you would expect a Game Boy Kirby game to look.
Although there isn't a whole lot of variety to it, Kirby's Block Ball is an enjoyable experience, and there is a challenge to be had if you attempt to achieve all of the score thresholds. It's tough, but it's a lot easier if you take advantage of the 3DS Virtual Console's save states. I romped through the whole game in about six and a half hours. Recommended if you like Breakout-style games, or just want a change of pace from the traditional Kirby platformers.
Kirby's Block Ball is currently available on the Nintendo eShop for $2.99.
Pinball Land is another one of his games I haven't tried, though I would like to. I'm hoping it will arrive in the eShop one day. I've been on a Kirby kick lately and I'll probably finish Amazing Mirror soon.
I wasn't too impressed with Block Ball when I picked it up on the VC last month. It's fine, I guess, but I'm not big on the Breakout/Arkanoid style, since I can never seem to get the ball to go where I want. It's especially tough in Block Ball, where the paddle is so tiny and precision is so important for meeting those point thresholds. I didn't bother going for the eleventh world because I expected the randomness would feel like a cheap time waster. Not a terrible purchase for four bucks or whatever, though.
A couple worlds in and I'm enjoying it. Controlling both sets of paddles throws me off a bit at times, but not too bad. Looking forward to the rest of it. A very worthwhile purchase, especially for 3 bucks.
I love Kirby, so I should probably get this game, especially since I never played it before. The price is good! From your review, it seems like the different Kirby power-ups are put to good use, so that's a huge plus in my book.
The Kirby spin-off games are generally awesome, and I'm waiting for Pinball Land to find its way to eShop. Ah, what wonderful memories...
Thanks for the review, sounds like a good game and the price is right. The Kirby theme is what makes this catch my attention, and as per usual, it sounds like another solid Kirby experiment. I think I'll preload this onto my girlfriend's 3DS when I get her one.
It's not a game for everyone, but it's good if you like arcade-style Breakout games with a little more oomph. I liked it okay at first, but once the game started getting harder, I started enjoying it more (and it never got frustratingly hard to me, so that's a plus).