I’ve long been a friend of Nintendo’s Kirby character. But now the amorphous little blob and I are real tight.

More than ever, we have to be. Without my help in his new game, "Kirby: Canvas Curse," he’d be dead meat.

This is a new game for the Nintendo DS that hit store shelves last month. Unlike traditional games played on other machines, this new Kirby title requires major player involvement using a stylus and the DS touch screen.

The stylus acts as a paintbrush, and you use it to help Kirby roll through more than 20 obstacle-laden levels. You draw rainbow lines that Kirby rolls along. Your ramps help him reach new heights and collect items that are out of reach. Your barriers protect him from enemy laser beams.

In his other games, Kirby resembles a cloud or puff of cotton candy. Here an evil witch has turned him into a perfect sphere (so he can roll around, get it?).

You do more with the stylus than draw lines. You can tap enemies to stun them, tap bricks to weaken them and tap Kirby to make him dash. If he hits an enemy while dashing, he copies their skills. There are 11 of these, and they give Kirby the ability to wield a deadly beam, blaze a trail of fire, float like a balloon and more.

He even swims. You pull Kirby through lakes of water, helping him fight currents and swim away from bad guys. It’s amazing how well he clings to your rainbow lines.

There are boss battles, too, and if you beat them, they become mini-games that you play over and over for high scores.

One such battle resembles the old arcade game "Breakout." You draw paddles that deflect Kirby to smash blocks and escape to the next room.

The upper screen on the DS serves informational purposes in this game, sometimes showing a map of the level Kirby is in, sometimes showing the score. Mostly it stays out of the way, unlike some other DS games where the constant looking up and down can leave you dizzy.

"Kirby" isn’t a perfect game. For one thing, this game doesn’t do much to promote the wacky personality of the puffball we loved in previous titles.

But there is some nice innovation, such as levels that are completely black until Kirby bumps into lanterns that put off light. And as we all know, in dark places like this, it’s good to have a friend.

© 2005, Detroit Free Press.

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