Welcome to another exciting episode of This Week in Defunct Games! Every Tuesday join Cyril as he reviews the best (and worst) retro releases for the week.
Three weeks into the new year, Nintendo has decided to finally release a new 3DS Virtual Console game. The good news is that it's a Game Boy game starring Kirby. Unfortunately, it's Kirby's Star Stackers. Is this Dr. Mario clone sink or swim?
Kirby's Star Stacker (Nintendo)
[ Release: January 17 | Price: $2.99 | Console: Game Boy | Year: 1997 ]
What Is It?
After striking gold with both Tetris and Dr. Mario, Nintendo spent the better part of the 1990s publishing portable puzzle games starring mascot characters. Having already conquered pinball, golf and Breakout, it was officially Kirby's turn to arrange falling blocks for points. I guess Yoshi and Wario had already done their tours of duty.
Instead of aping Tetris, Kirby's Star Stacker is more in line with Dr. Mario. Each stage has a set objective, with the player constantly trying to earn enough stars to move on to the next challenge. As a result, levels end right as they're getting good and the player never has a chance to earn point combos.
Even the core mechanics feel like a rejiggered Dr. Mario mode. The idea is to match like characters to delete them from the board. The trick is that you can sandwich a star in between two like characters. What's more, you can take out multiple stars by wedging them into that sandwich. The game teaches you early on that there is an easy solution to each stage; you just have to place the falling pieces correctly. Thankfully you aren't forced to solve it in one turn. Players can drag it out as long as they need to, though I found that most puzzles only lasted a few seconds.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Kirby's Star Stacker looks and feels like a lot of Nintendo's Game Boy-era puzzlers. The visuals are pleasing to the eye; full of adorable characters and whimsical humor. And while not exciting, the controls are responsive and there are a surprising amount of levels to complete. What feels outdated is the concept. There's a reason why companies aren't making Dr. Mario clones anymore.
Is It Worth The Money?
Are you a fan of Dr. Mario? If so, then you can probably disregard this review and proceed to having a great time with Kirby's Star Stacker. Personally, I found the game incredibly redundant. The game is full of content, but it never feels fully baked. I like the presentation and gameplay, but Kirby deserves a better puzzle game.