Kirby & The Amazing Mirror – Confusion, it’s super effective!

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This wasn’t my first time ever playing this game, but it was my first time beating it, as well as going for 100% completion afterwards. There wasn’t really a specific reason as to why I’ve never beaten it, so my experience overall is still pretty fresh with no former opinions, as that playthrough was more than 10 years ago. My experience with the Kirby franchise overall is… right in the middle I’d say. I’ve played some of the mainline games, as well as some spin-offs, but nowhere near all of them. Due to it, there is a possibility I criticize- or praise something that was already part of other games.

The game was played on the Game Boy Advance, which is also the only release aside from a digital re-release on the Nintendo Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. This probably won’t be too surprising, but the multiplayer features have not been touched and won’t be covered in the review either. I mean, I would like to, but wish me luck with finding at least one other person in 2021 who wants to go through the effort of linking a Game Boy Advance and play this game with me.

Whenever I want to play a casual game that I’m absolutely sure I’ll end up having a good time with, Kirby is one of the first franchises I think about. It really is one of those series where I can just boot up a game, have a good time for a while, and leave with a satisfied expression on my face as time has been well spent. And no, I am still an unbiased reviewer man dude, don’t worry. Yet, there was one game in the franchise that I played a bit of but never finished. An oddity in a series where I’ve finished all the games I’ve booted up at least one. And as the title implies, that game is Kirby & The Amazing Mirror.

Now, I’m not going to repeat what I mentioned in the ”before you read” segment; there really wasn’t a specific reason, or at least none that I can remember. But the easiest conclusion is to say that Kirby & The Amazing Mirror is a surprisingly similar- yet majorly different game from the other mainline titles. Perhaps it caught me off guard too much, but I can’t say since it has easily been over 10 years. My amnesiac memory doesn’t go that far back. But now that I’m older and familiar with what the game actually tried to be, I was highly motivated to start up this game again. So today, join me as I review Kirby & The Amazing Mirror!

Okay, so an odd comment right from the start, but this bothered me and I want it to bother other people as well. No problem, it’s my pleasure to ruin other people their experiences. Why is the intro cutscene, which is an essential introduction to the story, only available on the start screen after waiting for a few seconds, but not when I’m actually starting up a new save file? Sorry that I’m so impatient and that I wanted to play this game instead of waiting on a start menu, but I missed the entire context of why Kirby was split into four or… well, basically anything.

And I genuinely mean it, because the intro cutscene actually describes the entire story. There is a Mirror World high above Dreamland that is taken over by an evil being, so Meta Knight flies towards it to save everyone. But suddenly, he Returns to Dreamland (heh) to split Kirby into four colours, and they give chase to… well, become whole again. And yeah, I know: it’s Kirby, so the story isn’t that important. I just wanted to point out this weird design choice, because this game has more of them. Foreshadowing intensifies, but we’ll get there.

So we immediately gain control over Kirby and if you’ve played a Kirby game before, then you’ll be at home here immediately. The core gameplay never changes that much after all, as Kirby can still inflate himself to fly infinitely until he’s hurt, suck up enemies, and potentially borrow their abilities. I would go more into detail but frankly, Kirby games aren’t really known for overhauling the gameplay itself too much (which is not necessarily a complaint by the way). If you’re looking for a smooth controlling platformer with a wide arsenal of abilities to choose from, you can’t go wrong with this game. So instead, let me go more into detail on what’s different.

Kirby and the Amazing Mirror Multiplayer

As indicated right from the start, there isn’t just one Kirby, but a total of four. How does this influence the gameplay? If you are not playing with friends, not much really. In single-player, they can be called upon at any time given that there is enough charge on the phone, but whether you want to call them is a whole different question. They are AI-controlled, and not necessarily by a good AI. Sure, they can help with a boss, but most of the time they’re just staring at space and thinking about the meaning of life. The most use they had for me was bringing an ability with them for paths that I myself couldn’t open at the time, or for the very few required sections.

And speaking of paths, it’s time to address what Kirby & The Amazing Mirror is known for in the first place. What might initially look like a level-to-level progression system due to the linearity of the first few screens, quickly transforms into an open-world setting. After beating the first boss which is, of course, a variant of Whispy Woods, the whole world opens up and you can explore it in whichever order you’d like to. Or you can be like me and discover a secret passage before the first boss to go to one of the last areas, and get confused as all hell due to not being familiar with how the game handles this attempt at an open-world structure. And also Candy Constellation already being confusing as hell. Yeaa that didn’t really work out for me.

What might initially look like a level-to-level progression system due to the linearity of the first few screens, quickly transforms into an open-world setting.

Now, I will say that I have a love-hate relationship with how this structure is executed. As many may know, I am absolutely in love with open-world games or, what genre people often compare this game to, Metroidvanias. I won’t call it that simply because it isn’t, but the main reason people argue it is one is because of the interconnected world. And in terms of getting around, it actually works very well. There are multiple ability/teleporter rooms scattered around the map that can be accessed from the HUB world, ensuring that you will always reach your destination fairly quickly. Getting back to the HUB world is as simple as calling a Uber warp star, and that is greatly appreciated. I just forgot about it more than once, but that’s my own fault.

So yeah, getting around the map goes pretty smoothly… if you are able to decipher the map in the first place. Let’s not beat around the bush: it’s a mess. If you don’t have a map that can be found in the areas themselves, it’s just an ugly screen with yellow blocks scattered around and no roads between them. Frankly, it still took me some effort even after I had found the maps. There isn’t really much visual distinction to indicate what purpose a room may have since they are all the same shape, and I simply am unable to remember the rooms when looking at the map. The fact that I have to open the map multiple times in a row after entering a new room indicates that something is wrong with it.

Kirby and the Amazing Mirror Map
I didn’t go to university for this

What’s even more confusing is that there are multiple rooms marked on the map as ”goal”. Your main goal is to fight the bosses and retrieve a shard of the mirror, so what are there other goals? They are minigames to score extra lives, that boot you back to the HUB world after completion. This is completely counterintuitive to how the game is designed, because it tries to bring an end to a level while we are playing an open-world game where we don’t want to get booted back to the HUB world.

This was admittedly very confusing to me, partially because I didn’t always have the map available at that point. The map is hidden somewhere in the area, but it’s a complete mystery where it can be found. To compensate for Kirby not really upgrading himself but still feeling rewarded for exploration, there are several chests hidden throughout the area, with the big ones usually containing a map. The big chests do indeed feel rewarding, but the small ones only sometimes do. They either contain some nice collectables like music- or even colour swaps, but most of the time it’s just food or 1-ups–stuff that I simply didn’t need. And I ended up skipping chests eventually because they seemed like they weren’t worth the effort, therefore not fueling my desire to explore everything. Until I realised that all chests are a requirement for 100%. Oops.

I ended up skipping chests eventually because they seemed like they weren’t worth the effort, therefore not fueling my desire to explore everything.

Oh, and quick interjection from your favourite Nepiki, because this is definitely the stupidest design choice in this entire game, and you can’t tell me otherwise. Why in DeDeDe’s name can I only view the collectables in the save file selection screen? Seriously, why can’t I view this in-game? And this isn’t as simple as going back to the menu, because then it would be… a stupid design choice still, but redeemable. But the only way to get back to the save file menu while in-game, for any purpose, is to reset the game. WHY.

Anyhow, back to the chests. What makes hunting for the chests worse is the effort required to get to them in the first place. The developers had the brilliant idea for abilities to open up paths to alternate exits and these chests. This isn’t sarcasm by the way; I genuinely think that’s a good idea. The problem however, is that we are still playing a Kirby game. One hit, and the ability is popped right out of Kirby. He can reclaim it sure, but that’s sometimes easier said than done. Getting hit underwater- or near bottomless pits usually means your chance is gone. Frankly, it would have been better if Kirby was just able to keep the ability on hit.

Now fortunately, the developers weren’t sadists. At almost all times, the ability required for these paths is in the same room, or at worst a few away. Do be wary of one-way doors though, which the game likes to drop often. I feel like this hindrance has absolutely no place in games such as this one, but to be fair, it is indicated on the map by arrows going in one direction. I just didn’t realise it myself during my first playthrough. I still hate it though because, as I said, if you don’t have the map, it doesn’t show the arrows connecting between the yellow blocks. Don’t do one-way rooms, please.

Kirby and the Amazing Mirror Boss

And thinking about it, that actually brings up a good point about my opinion overall. Aside from some game design choices I simply don’t agree with, a lot of my issues exist due to confusion. Whenever I opened a chest and it was a spray can, I just didn’t know what I got because the game never told me, and the completion screen was somewhere else. The map was confusing, but I understood it eventually, and I now also know what ability works for what sort of block which, by the way, you also have to figure out yourself. I’m sure I will have a better time on replays in the future, but a lot of my initial confusion was unnecessary and could have been easily resolved.

And as a matter of fact, I did still have a fun time. When I beat the first boss and the world opened up, I was so excited to just follow my guts and go wherever I could go. Due to Kirby not needing any upgrades, the sky is genuinely the limit. Anything could be done out of order and it adds to the replayability, hence why I am definitely not objected to replaying the game in the future. And since it is still a Kirby game at its core, it does still offer some fun level design- and bosses–including a boss that is a reference to the Super Smash Bros. series, which gives you the Smash ability to replicate Kirby’s moveset from Super Smash Bros. Melee. It’s genuinely fun.

Kirby & The Amazing Mirror was an interestingly fun attempt at an open-world structure, though my initial confusion will linger in the back of my head. This doesn’t only have to do with some admittedly baffling design choices, but also with the game wanting to be something else without taking into account the limitations the core franchise has. The platforming, ability-based gameplay is still here in its full glory, but the level-to-level structure has been replaced by an open-world where ability management is a bit more important. It absolutely sucks losing an ability that is required for an optional path after taking one measly hit, especially if a replacement isn’t nearby or it’s locked behind a one-way room. The worst part is that you don’t know when a one-way room happens because the map is a complete mess, only slightly improved when finding the map item in an area. But wherever they are is not only a mystery, but I didn’t even feel encouraged hunting for chests because the reward was either just some food items, or collectable items that are locked on a screen not even selectable while in-game. These are all definite issues, but don’t misunderstand my criticism: I still had a lot of fun with the game, especially when the world is completely open after the first boss has been beaten. This game feels like one that will become more fun on consecutive playthroughs, simply because I can work around these initial confusions I had. The replayability is definitely there at the very least!

7.0

Nepiki's Rating

Overall rating

Game Score
6.0
Fun Score
8.0
Positives
  • A lot of replayability due to the open-world structure.
  • The core Kirby gameplay remains good, with fun new abilities.
  • The warp star and ability rooms makes travelling around surprisingly easy.
Negatives
  • The map is absolutely terrible, even after finding the item.
  • The item collection screen cannot be viewed while in-game.
  • Counterintuitive design (one-way rooms, ends to a level) that make the open world feel restricted.

Thank you for reading! I finished this review pretty quickly, as I had strong opinions about the game. But that’s only because, and I probably didn’t emphasise it enough: I genuinely love this idea. It can work really well, especially if the issues I had got resolved. Remove the one-way doors, abilities lost on hit, and the stupid choices regarding the opening- and completion screen, and it would already be that much better. Give it another shot, and I’ll be there to play it and hopefully enjoy it!

The end of the year is closing in on us and I still have a few plans ready before 2022 arrives. Hopefully I can finish them all before then, but only time will tell. There will also be another update post when 2022 is here, as a look ahead to the future. Stay tuned!

Is there a series that you would like to see take an attempt at the open-world formula?

The most obvious answer for me would be the 2D Mario games or Sonic the Hedgehog games, but I wanted to go a bit deeper for further discussion purposes. So I was thinking of a few franchises that I really like, and amongst them were franchises such as WipEout. Imagine just racing around everywhere in some HUB world, and then taking on competitions at specific places. I dunno, it sounded cooler in my head but I still want it!


Nepiki Gaming is a website dedicated to talking about all sorts of games I come across, be it through a review or another article. Therefore, this site is also run only by me. I am more than glad enough to have my own space where I can just write, but if you so desire, you can support both my site and my Twitch streams in multiple ways! Please scroll down to the bottom of the page or browse to the ”Contact and FAQ” page to find out more, including access to my community-driven Discord Server and my Patreon!

About author

Nepiki

A gamer and writer at heart who wants to combine his hobbies into one. I am 25 years old and I'm from the Netherlands. Having played many games over the years, I wanted to express my love for them, however obscure they may be!

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