Everyone likes cake - and anyone that says they don't, is lying. As a serial baker with an almost constant supply of home made cakes, biscuits and pies, we can contest there's almost no-one who can say no to a little nibble. While we're inherently suspicious of anyone who says they're 'not a desert person', there's one little guy we know we can always rely on to inhale everything edible within a five mile radius - and no, we're not on about our no-longer-teenage younger brother. No, we're on about Nintendo's insatiably hungry pink puffball, Kirby - a veritable stomach with legs who's starred in many a cutesy little game over the years, with his latest having a distinctly cake-y bent.
In Kirby Battle Royale, chief Penguin in-a-dressing-gown King Dedede has thrown out an open challenge to anyone in Dream Land - the self-titled Dedede's Cake Royale. Wannabe contestants must battle it out in a tournament to prove they're the best fighter in Dream Land, with the grand prize being the cake of your dreams. Of course, Kirby is there as fast as his chubby little legs will carry him, finding himself an unlikely partner in the form of Blue Waddle Dee along the way, as they team up to take on King Dedede's baked gauntlet together. Powered by King Dedede's latest device, the 'Kirby Printer', which can chuck out near limitless clones of the titular pink puffball, it's up to you to fight your way through umpteen Kirby vs Kirby vs Kirby vs er, Waddle Dee, battles as you climb your way through the rankings, after the fabled cakey prize.
While the game may have been marketed as being a multiplayer mini-game fest, Kirby Battle Royale actually does have a single player story mode to work through, albeit a fairly short and repetitive one. Pitting you in five tiers of battles against increasingly different opponents, you'll get to take in each of Battle Royale's ten mini-games, and its various Kirby power ups along the way. With each battle lasting a minute or two, you and your Waddle Dee companion will face off against Dedede's Kirby clones in everything from straight brawls to apple collecting races to coin-grabbing contests; there's a fair variety on offer, but with only so many variations on offer, the single player does start to wear thin at around the halfway point.
That's not to say the mini-games are bad - for the most part, they're actually pretty fun. 'Battle Arena' is your standard beat 'em up Kirby smack-a-thon, where the last blob standing wins - a mode which is fine in and of itself, but which certainly won't win any points for originality.
Another game gives each Kirby their very own (grounded) space ship, and sees you and your friends running around, competing for limited cubes of 'rocket fuel' to load into it, ready to propel your Kirby into the stratosphere once time is up. More fuel means you'll fly further, and not only are you and your opponents fighting for the limited resources that drop from the skies, but you can also take the fight directly to their rockets too, where a few well-placed whacks will make them drop fuel you can then steal. Just make sure you get into your rocket before the timer runs out, or all your hard work will have been for nothing!
Robo Bonkers, meanwhile, sees everyone semi working together to take down a giant robotic monkey - the titular Robo Bonkers - by pelting him with missiles. It's a race to pick up said missiles as they drop from the skies, and launch them from the strategically placed cannons around the level, as you earn points based on the number of hits you land. However, just because you miss out on a missile, doesn't mean you're totally screwed - you can always beat up an opponent and throw them in a cannon instead...
But our favourite has to be 'Crazy Theater', a sort of slightly more confrontational take on a quiz show. As instructions pop up on screen, perhaps a simple maths problem, or a prompt to count the number of apples on screen, it's up to you and your opponents to scramble to stand on the section of the floor marked out with the right answer - get it right, and you'll earn points. Of course, you can always knock the other players off as you scramble to get the most points in a number of quick-fire question rounds, while a few non-quiz rounds thrown in for good measure keep you on your toes, asking you to avoid being hit by your friends, or to simply pick up (and managing to hold on to!) three apples at once. With each round lasting only a few seconds, Crazy Theater is both stressful and entertaining when you're playing against a group of semi-competent friends.
And really, that's the clincher with Kirby Battle Royale. If you have a group of friends, this is a game that will really shine, as it gets so much right. The mini-games are fun, fast and frantic when played with a group of friends - and with support for Download Play, everyone can join in with just one copy of the game. Although Download Play-ers will be limited to a choice of six power ups for the Kirbster, they do have access to all the mini-games on offer, which is arguably where it matters the most - especially as the powers they get access to are a fairly balanced mix of the easy to use sword and fighter melee powers, with a few of the trickier ranged ones (bomb, cutter), meaning Download Play folks will never feel at an inherent disadvantage.
But the crux of the matter is that, for what you're getting in Kirby Battle Royale, Nintendo's asking price is a little steep. As a multiplayer game, it's great fun, especially if you can get the right group of people together, but it's just a little too limited to warrant its premium price point, which is sad. Despite it not being their main push, Kirby Battle Royale's single player story is a nice enough addition, albeit one that gets a bit too repetitive as you go along, without the added social rivalry and banter you get in local multiplayer sessions. All in all, it's far from bad - and indeed, mini-game enthusiasts and those who play a lot of multiplayer should feel free to add another half a star and a bit on to score - it's just a bit thin on the ground, especially when you consider Kirby's past portable titles came with a solid platforming adventure AND three or four mini-games thrown in for good measure.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS