Probably more so than any other major game publisher, Nintendo is infamous for their sequels being too similar to the originals with not enough change from one game to the next. Regardless of whether you agree with that or not, the Kirby franchise has had little change for years. Mass Attack was an interesting change to the formula as it disposed of abilities completely, but other than that most of the games have not had much added to them. They usually have one or two more powers and a gimmick like the Super Ability in Return to Dreamland, which was essentially just an overpowered regular ability. However, I’m not necessarily saying every game should reinvent the wheel. Return to Dreamland is a fun game for what it is, but the level variety and powers in Kirby games have been somewhat stagnant recently. Until Planet Robobot came around.
Planet Robobot looked like it would be more of that, but it actually has more variety than any of the past several games combined. It sticks to the roots of the Kirby games though, which is great because it gives people what they expect rather than something off the wall for the sake of shaking things up. The new mechanic for this game, the robot, is integrated into the gameplay in clever ways rather than being a small addon. The robot essentially doubles the number of abilities available and level types in the game.
Planet Robobot basically has two modes that levels can be split into. One is the traditional Kirby gameplay, and the other is when you’re in the robot. While inside the robot, you can jump on top of and punch enemies without taking damage, so you’re much more powerful than you are normally. You can also absorb enemies to gain their abilities just like Kirby, but every robot ability is fundamentally different than the corresponding Kirby ability. For example, Cutter Kirby throws small boomerangs at enemies and can aim them up and down. The Cutter ability as a robot gives you a giant buzzsaw that lets you slice through enemies and large obstacles, but you can’t throw it like you can as Kirby. Most abilities have a robotic counterpart that plays completely differently. This almost doubles the number of abilities in the game, and it helps keep it interesting even for a veteran Kirby player.
The robot also has a subtle difference that totally changes the levels it appears in. When you take damage as Kirby, you drop your ability and have to chase it down before it disappears. But as a robot, you never drop your ability unless you die. This means that unlike the regular Kirby sections, the designers can count on the player having an ability for the duration of a stage rather than just for a small segment. In the regular Kirby levels, it’s hard to assume the player will be able to hold onto one ability for a long period of time, especially since a lot of their target audience is less skilled players. But as a robot, entire stages are designed around an ability you pick up at the start. A few levels give you the Jet ability as a robot at the beginning, which lets you fly through the air and shoot lasers. This turns the stage into a side-scrolling shooter. Another stage gives you the Wheel ability early on, which lets you move much faster than normal and gives you a spike on the front to ram through enemies. This lets them make larger levels that give a sense of speed and throw enemies in to mow down. It also adds some platforming challenges, which are scarce in Kirby games because you can just float over any pits.
If you hate Kirby games, this one won’t change your mind. However, if you are looking for something with a little more variety than most Kirby games, give Planet Robobot a shot.