Ever wished for easier times, where games didnít involve 8 - 10 buttons and multiple combinations of uses of those buttons just to play a videogame? Do games like Pong and Tetris still appeal to your sense of fun and enjoyment? Step right up to Kirby Air Ride then; sure, he may be pink, cute, and question your masculinity, but dammit his newest game is simplicity exemplified.
Air Ride was originally intended as a Nintendo 64 launch title. Back then HAL was aiming for a mini-golf style game, which quickly turned into a racing game with a tilting table. Which then was scrapped in favor of a Ďtrueí racing game. Which turned into...
A game that can be played entirely with one button?
Itís a simple control scheme: players take Kirby on his ride of choice across a handful of tracks, using only the analog stick and the A button. The stick is for steering while A is for... everything else. Pressing it brakes, which at the same time charges a boost meter - letting go give you a nice speed kick, but abusing it means youíll stop as much as you go. Not a good thing for placing first, so moderation is key. The A button also gives Kirby the power to suck up foes littered on the course, and A uses the powers he gains. Simplicity exemplified, indeed.
Thereís not much more to the control than that. There are multiple Ďstarsí or vehicles to choose from. At the start you get the obligatory all-around racer, and then more interesting stars pop up as you play. Finding extras in the game involves a Ďchecklistí - numbering in the hundreds - that ask you to do simple things (finish in first or beat a lap time), while others are downright terrible (race 100 laps or race a thousand feet in a minute). Whereas Air Rideís controls make things painfully easy, there are plenty of objectives and goals to keep things from being mundane.
If you do get bored though, there are 3 different modes of play to choose from. Air Ride is the meat of the game; Top Ride offers simple tracks on an overhead view (think Kirby meets Off Road); and City Trial feels like a game in itself. Roam around a tiny town landscape, collect power-ups for your star, find better stars, and fight against others for stats. After an allotted time, players head to the Stadium to use their vamped vehicles in mini-games. High jumps, drag races, and boss battles are just a few things youíll face.
Itís all cut, dry, and - you guessed it - simple. Thereís both an appeal and a drawback to such pick-up-and-play elements. Kirby Air Ride can be picked up by anyone and be fully realized within 10 minutes. Not a bad thing if youíre having friends over, or want a gaming quick fix. On the other hand, youíll see everything there is to see within a few hours (barring some of the harder objectives), and the simple schematics can get monotonous if you play too long. I think the one thing that makes the best simple games so memorable is thereís an addictive quality to it, something that just drives you to put out better times, scores, etc. In Air Ride it just feels as if the simple is there, but a certain spark is missing to make it a great one-player experience. Definitely invite a few friends if you plan on playing a marathon.
But the minimalist qualities donít end. The graphics are just as plain, albeit colorful. The courses are quite a sight, but it wonít win awards for "best graphics on the GameCube." The same goes for the music - aside from some old catchy tunes from past Kirby games, itís a forgettable affair. Although Kirby himself is just too cute for words - from the exaggerated animations to that high-pitched voice, heís just... just... too damn cute.
Wow, never thought Iíd say that.
As far as games go, Kirby Air Ride is a nice diversion in a hobby of diversions. When the complexities of Morrowind are too great, when huge midterms means only a few minutes of fun time here and there, this is a game that cuts through all convolution and has fun. Just be sure to bring some buddies along for the ride.
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