Thursday, January 26, 2023

Kirby's Block Ball (Game Boy, 1996)


There is no truth to the oft-repeated rumor that this game was originally going to be called "Kirby's Brock Ball" and involved Brock Lesnar punting Kirby through field goals.

Interesting game here that somehow flew completely under my radar. I really liked Kirby's Pinball Land back in the day so I should like this. It's basically that Breakout game only with Kirby as the ball.

The game takes place over ten worlds, each one with 3 to 5 stages. So it's a surprisingly long game for Kirby on the Game Boy. Took me probably 3ish hours.

Breakout was one of the first PC games I ever played. Specifically, a 3D first-person version of it, which means it was also one of the first 3D games I ever played.

This game is simple enough: Knock Kirby into the blocks until there are none left, don't let him bounce back onto the spikes.

Lots of enemy sprites from Kirby's Dream Land show up here, and you defeat everything by just knocking Kirby into them. This is a BLAST.

There's even this great air hockey minigame where you earn extra lives depending on how many goals you score. Even this minigame is a blast and handles super well. How did I completely miss this game back in the day?

There is one thing that quickly becomes a recurring annoyance: When a stage is almost done, the last few blocks are often really tedious to try and hit.

Usually you fight a miniature version of the world boss in the second-to-last stage of the world. And by "fight" I mean whack Kirby into them while they stand around.

The actual World 1 boss is a shroom. Whispy Woods? He's been promoted beyond World 1 Boss?

I got a high score...but not the top one. ASS!

In 2-1, I find myself struggling to hit this last block. Come on, hit the damn block! Why does this have to be so tedious? Just end the stage when I take out 90% of the blocks or something.

Soon, solid blocks start appearing that can't be broken unless you hit Kirby towards them as a power-shot (pressing a button right as he collides with the "racket"). Before too long, indestructible blocks also start appearing, which are particularly unwelcome.

Also we have these smiling faces that repel Kirby all over the place like bumpers. I liked World 1 where it was just basic Breakout.

Second boss! Another regular enemy from Kirby's Dream Land, promoted to boss status.

Man, I'm falling in the rankings!

World 3 is more of the same, culminating with the creepy mask guy from the other games.


World 4 boss is finally an actual miniboss rather than a regular enemy. It's worth noting that boss fights are a little bit tricky, since all four side-walls are fair game for the boss to knock Kirby into spikes and score goals. The blocks on the walls protect that square from a hit, but only one hit. Concentrating on all four paddles as necessary is a surprising mental workout.

Almost forgot, this game also lets Kirby steal the abilities of some enemies (if they have one). For example, taking out one of these stone guys gives Kirby a one-use ability that crushes all the blocks directly below him. These can be really useful, but being one-use holds them back a bit.

World 5 is where the game suddenly gets difficult. Not just difficult, super-difficult, with lots of tedious maps that make it as hard to clear out the blocks as possible.

I think this game was fantastic for the first world or two and kinda declined a bit as it went on. World 5 onward are pretty much just for the Diehard Kirby's Block Ball Fandom. But I gotta do those levels regardless.

World 5 boss is the Sun and Moon. Finally, a fully-fledged boss from one of the other games!

And back to the minibosses as we get the Frosty in World 6. What happened to Lololo and Lalala? Was there a contract dispute?

Kracko is the boss of World 7. I'm pretty much just showing the bosses at this point because only the boss levels have any real theme/difference. The normal levels all look basically the same as they have since the beginning, only increasingly convoluted.

Kracko PUFFS UP. What a timeless and nostalgic foe.

Whispy Woods finally shows up in World 8. Goes from being a permanent World 1 boss to a World 8 boss, truly a success story for Whispy Woods.

On World 9 I basically just die constantly. ASS!

World 9 boss is Kaboola, who you see from a top-down perspective here and it's super weird. Apparently Kaboola has two cannons. At first I thought maybe this was always the case since you only see it from the side in Kirby's Dream Land. Except Kaboola spins and does flips in that game and it definitely only has one cannon. So basically they added a cannon here. This no doubt outraged a lot of the aforementioned Diehard Kirby's Block Ball Fandom.

Here's an example of the more pain-in-the-butt stage design as the game progresses. The first row of blocks are invincible blocks. So you have to just furiously repel the ball against them until you can get it to go up through the tiny passage on the side and actually start making some headway.

World 10 boss...who? Seriously, who? The last 3 bosses were the Kirby's Dream Land originals so I expected Lololo/Lalala here, but instead we get this unknown foe.

I'm perplexed. Whatever it is, it's defeated quickly, and that's it for the ten worlds. There's also a final fight with King Dedede which I assume is gonna follow right after this.

Wait, what? I get some sort of bad ending and the game bounces me back out to the world map. Had to look it up to find out what the deal is. Turns out, you only get to fight the final boss if you meet a certain goal score in all ten worlds. Hopefully you can just go back and repeat the ones you didn't quite make it on...except the game doesn't tell you which ones you succeeded or failed on, so you'd need to keep track yourself while going through every world.

At the very beginning of any given world it'll tell you what the goal score is, in the form of this "Border Line" thing. I didn't pay any attention to this, thinking it was just a score for kids to shoot for. Nope, it's a requirement for the final boss!

Well, I worked hard to get as far as I did, I'm chalking this game up as beaten and moving on. I do want to see the final boss, though. To Youtube!

The final boss is, unsurprisingly, King Dedede. Also, we get a gander at the Super Game Boy custom border for this particular game, one of the benefits of dropping in 1996.

And that's probably why I missed out on it entirely. By 1996 I was interested in SNES and N64, and the ol' Game Boy wasn't really getting any use anymore.

This is a cool idea for a game, and it was a blast at first. Unfortunately a few problems kinda dampened it as it went on. Still, it was worth a look.

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