Review: Kirby & The Amazing Mirror (Game Boy Advance)

In this review, we reflect on the Game Boy Advance game Kirby & The Amazing Mirror. We find out how well this adventure game plays.

This game was released in 2004.

We know a fair bit about the Kirby Franchise. We first tried Kirby’s Dream Land. That game earned a very respectable score. Next up, we tried Kirby’s Pinball Land. That game also got a solid score. After that, we tried Kirby’s Adventure. That game wound up being one of the best games we’ve ever played.

From there, we tried Kirby’s Dream Land 2. That game also got a very respectable score. After that, we tried Kirby’s Dream Course. That game got a great score. Then, we tried Kirby’s Avalanche. For the first time, the series only got a mediocre score. Next up is Kirby’s Block Ball. Impressively, that game also got a great score. Then, we tried Kirby’s Super Star. That game wound up being another one of the best game’s we’ve ever played.

After that, we tried Kirby – Nightmare in Dreamland. That game got a very solid score. Finally, we tried Kirby Super Star Ultra. That game got a great score all around.

With such an impressive track record with only the rarest of missteps, we were quite curious to try another game in the series.

Our understanding of the story is that the Dark Meta Knight shattered the mirror in the Mirror world. It’s up to you to reassemble the mirror and stop him. The game really doesn’t seem to offer a whole lot in terms of story, though, so that’s the best we could conjure up based on our playing of the game.

If you played almost any Kirby game previously, you’ll be familiar with Kirby’s ability to copy an enemies special move. Just swallow an enemy and press down to see if you can copy it. Not all enemies can be copied, but many can be. One move that we don’t believe we’ve seen is Smash which is more or less a combination of a couple of different enemies abilities.

There are a number of enemies. Many of these enemies are, again, very familiar to fans of the franchise. Returning enemies is Gordo, Waddle Dee, and Sir Kibble. There are a couple of new enemies, most of which fly as well.

There is also the standard compliment of items such as free lives, tomatoes, and bottles of health. All of this really sounds like your standard platforming Kirby game. Well, this is where things start taking a turn for the very different.

If you’ve played Kirby games previous to this one, you’ll be familiar with the standard progression. There are variations to this (Kirby Super Star offering a great example of the different variations), but there is more or less a start point, locations along the path, and an end point. With the exception of a start point and end point, this sense of being linear is thrown completely out the window.

Instead, you are given a whole matrix of stages. There are locations that can be travelled to and from. In other cases, you have locations that you can only travel one way to. Additionally, in some areas, you can warp from one area to another. In total, there are 9 areas you can go through.

Another way this game differs is that you actually have 3 helpers in this game. In previous games, you can get an additional helper. At first, this sounds extremely useful. Unfortunately, as you play, you’ll eventually see that the usefulness of these helpers is extremely limited. After the introductory stage, the other three Kirby friends randomly wander into other parts of the world. You can see them travel to different stages via the map and even see them obtain different powerups along the top of the screen. Otherwise, they play only the most minor role.

A related new feature is the cell phone. You have three bars. So, if you use your cell phone, the other three Kirby helpers will teleport to your location and lend a hand – however useful that may be. Each call for help uses a bar. You can pick up batteries to replenish your bars after. Alternatively, with the other shoulder button, you can call up a warp star to carry you back to the main lobby. This is useful if you are anticipating that the path you are taking will not yield anything else and want a speedy way to get to a new location. Just know that you won’t replenish anything by doing this.

Like other Kirby games in the past, this game does feature a main lobby. This main lobby houses the shattered mirror. It also houses various mirrors that warps you to other locations. To activate most of these, you’ll have to find the switch on the other side of that mirror to activate that connection. These mirror warps are very useful to getting you around the mirror world.

As already mentioned, your main goal is to obtain the 8 mirror shards. To get these, you have to find the main boss in each world. Know that there are multiple sub-bosses in each world as well, so you need to locate the correct boss location to obtain the shard.

Meanwhile, the sub bosses guard most of the goal locations. If you cross a goal, you’ll enter into a mini-game. Collect items and even 1-ups through this short minigame. This replenishes your health and help gets you set for your next round.

Of course, collecting shards isn’t the only special items you can collect in this game. In addition, you can collect the hugely important map items. If you collect a map, your pause menu map will go from a more abstract collection of golden boxes to a more complete matrix of the whole world. This comes complete with where warps to other worlds are located, locations of interest, and where the shard is located if you haven’t collected it already. This makes a huge difference in navigating the world in question to say the least.

In addition, you can collect spray cans. While this doesn’t really help your adventure, it will assist you in getting a final completion percentage. All these spray cans do is allow you to change Kirby’s colour. To do this, exit the game and access it in the collection menu.

Another special item that contributes to your completion percentage is musical scores. These look like the maps, but have a musical note. What these scores do is allow you to preview some more music in the collection menu. Critically, you need to collect the CD to play this music.

A final item you can collect is the heart. These hearts increase your health capacity. As a result, you can take more hits. There aren’t that many of these, but they do exist.

Something else you can find are grey star blocks. Unlike most blocks, all you can do is move these with your inhale capability. Typically, you can move them only a small distance in a single inhale, but typically, it’s enough to move them out of the way.

Similarly, there are also regular breakable grey blocks. These generally impede your progress. Only a handful of abilities can break them. This includes the smash ability, the hammer ability, and burning. They can be rather frustrating, but only a few of these need to be broken to obtain special items.

In addition to the main quest are mini-games accessible in the main menu. One such mini-game is Speed Eaters. Essentially, you are just waiting for the signal to press “A”. The faster you hit that button, the more likely you’ll eat all four pieces of food. Beware, in later levels, the game will serve up bombs. Eat those and you’ll miss out on the next round. Eat 8 pieces of food to win.

A second game is Crackity Hack. This is similar to the Megaton challenge in Super Star. In the first part, you have to press “A” when the meter reaches the top. The closer to the top it is, the more power you have. Do this as many times as possible to build up power. After the timer runs out, you have to press “A” the second the target’s align to get the most out of your hit. The longer the crack, the better your score. Beat out your competition to form the biggest crack to win.

A third game is Kirby Wave Ride. In this game, you ride on a star. Press “A” at the very end of the jump to gain speed. “A” will also allow you to jump and reach for higher ramps. Be the first to cross the finish line to win.

For me, the Kirby franchise is definitely not afraid to experiment. What is impressive to me is how few times these experimentation’s ended up flopping. By my count, so far, Kirby’s Avalanche is the only real flop out of all the experimental ideas. If it weren’t for that game, I would’ve wondered if Kirby can do any wrong. Unfortunately, this game wound up being probably the second experiment that I thought didn’t pan out – and it mostly revolved around execution.

By now, there have been a lot of non-linear games. Whether that is Super Mario 64, Gran Turismo, Banjo Kazooie, Driver, Donkey Kong 64, or Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. What all of these games have in common is that they break with the concept of a linear style of play to varying degrees. The end result is that the gameplay winds up bieng much more immersive. Non-linear style of play is nothing new by this point in time, but it is generally picking up in this era of gaming. So, on paper, it actually sound very good: let’s make a non-linear game, but keep it to the 2D world that many Kirby fans have known this game to be for. Additionally, lets blow everyone’s mind by cramming into a portable console.

Unfortunately, once executed, the player winds up with an adventure game where they will simply follow same paths and get completely lost very quickly. Finding the world map is critical to getting a clue about where you are in the world. Otherwise, you are pretty much feeling your way around in the dark hoping to get lucky on something. You might find the shard first before finding the map even. The bottom line is that you have no idea where you are going.

The other thing is that there are secret locations to other doors within the world or doors locked away behind a sometimes cryptic puzzle that requires a specific ability. Sometimes, those abilities are nearby. Other times, those abilities are half way across the world. In the end, if you do manage to get lucky and break through whatever barrier the game throws at you, sometimes, all you are awarded is a 1up, a mini-boss fight, and a trip back to the hub world with almost nothing accomplished after all that work. Other times, those locked away areas are critical locations you need to access to get a critical key item to enhance your progress.

What you end up with is a frustrating play that forces players to repeat areas half blindly. If being hopelessly lost for hours on end accomplishing nothing strikes you as a fun experience, then maybe this game is for you. For me, I just got frustrated, looked up a guide, and let that thing drag me to the end of the game. It was either me giving up part way through out of boredom or just being told where the heck I needed to go in this thing.

While map locations did frustrate my overall impression of this game, it isn’t the only flaw. To make matters even more frustrating, the most confusing maze-like network of locations is located within the first two worlds. You can spend hours finding the alternate routs and cleverly hidden pathways to complete your general exploration of these worlds – and that’s assuming you even managed to locate the map in the first place. Some of the more middle levels were much more reasonable even if the difficulty has been bumped up. However, this game pretty much pushes you off the dock almost right away and just expects you to swim pretty early on. I think a gradual increase in maze complexity would have been the better way to go here, personally.

With these two issues combined, you already have yourself a very steep learning curve. If you’ve never played a Kirby game, chances are, that learning curve is close to twice as steep even though there are pause explanations for different abilities. If you’ve never played a Kirby game before, I will say this is one of the worst games you can start your franchise experience with. This game pretty much hinges on experience with previous games as it is.

The basic mechanics are all there. A lot of what makes other Kirby games interesting is all here. There are even decent mini-games to play if you want a break from the main adventure. Boss fights are also interesting as they mix a little of the old and throw in some new in the mix. This actually works very well in giving fans a sense of familiarity while still being surprised by something new.

Generally speaking, there are some good concepts here. A lot of what made other Kirby games great is certainly present here. Unfortunately, the execution of non-linear play really causes this game to fall flat. With so many ways this franchise experiments, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Unfortunately, with this game, we finally got a rare fumble on this series.

Graphically, this game is decent. It’s the same familiar graphic style fans of the series come to expect. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really break any new ground necessarily for a handheld system by this time. It might have been a somewhat different story if there was some subtle 3D effects thrown in or some more transparency effects. As it is now, it’s fairly mediocre. The only thing that really saves this game on this front is the variety and the games size in my view.

Audio has always been a very strong feature with this franchise. The music overall is pleasant to listen to. I’m not sure there is any one track that is particularly memorable in this instance, but the music isn’t all that bad either. Sound effects are fairly standard, but nothing too special.

Overall, I was hoping for a lot in this game and it wound up falling short thanks to design flaws. The overly complex first few worlds and the not so well thought out design of the non-linear nature of this game pretty much did in the enjoyment for this game. Graphics are OK, but nothing huge and the music is decent. Still, it is surprising to me to be disappointed by a Kirby game, but here I am today being just that.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game and got a 79% completion rating.

General gameplay: 16/25
Replay value: 6/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 62%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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