Kirby: Canvas Curse
Don't write this one off as a baby game. Sure, you play as a possibly genderless pink blob, riding rainbows through magical castles filled with pretty stars. But this game is so much more than the usual 2D puff-n-float platforming. While there still is plenty of puffing and floating, the crux of the game involves drawing rainbow slides that guide Kirby to his destination. At first it seems simplistic, but as you learn all the ways you can use your paintbrush, the game becomes quite compelling. Sometimes, for instance, you need to protect Kirby from fire or electricity. Other times, a well-drawn rainbow is the only way to get the stars or medals in a level. It sounds fruity, but the levels are well designed and really take advantage of the painting mechanism. The challenge can reach frustrating levels, but ultimately, success boils down to a fine balance of puzzle solving, skilled drawing, and even a pinch of creativity (you can progress several ways, depending on how you draw Kirby's path). Add in a few WarioWare-'msp'neti bosses and minigames, and you have a great addition to the DS library.
Finally, someone was able to make a stylus-controlled title that's actually a real game. As you guide the titular puffball through pastel lands with your pen, everything feels shockingly natural: understanding Kirby's intrinsic momentum, sketching rainbow pathways, and barreling into enemies to swipe their powers. Platforming gameplay hasn't felt this new in ages. Kirby's creativity goes so far, in fact, that it's easy to overlook the game's missteps. Graphically, you'll find nothing here that couldn't have happened on the Game Boy Advance. And it's awfully tempting to motor through the game in one four-hour sitting. Luckily, the plentiful unlockables (including a host of playable characters) make multiple playthroughs worth it.
Canvas Curse is the first DS game from Nintendo that really delivers the kind of quality and polish I've come to expect from the company. It's also Nintendo's first DS game, aside from maybe Mario 64, that doesn't have that "glorified tech demo" feel to it. Kirby has eight worlds, 20-plus stages, bosses, minigames--the whole package. Another Yoshi Touch & Go this is not. From start to finish, Canvas is packed with beautiful graphics, awesome level designs, and compelling gameplay. Boss battles are cool and unique, and the minigames and bonus options are worth unlocking--really! Don't blow through the game in half the time and miss out.