The Legendary Starfy

The Legendary Starfy for DS is the fifth game in the popular Japanese Densetsu no Starfy series, but the first entry to see release in the US. After having played the game, I can see the appeal of the character and franchise. However, cartoonish charm can only get you so far.

Starfy is a starfish and the Prince of the floating ocean kingdom of Pufftop. The game's story is pretty standard and cliche-ridden, but it gets its job done. The writing does manage to inject a good bit of humor into the proceedings. Don't worry about this being a sequel in a series, however, as the story is completely stand-alone.

The world of the Legendary Starfy is full of cute, colorful and memorable characters, and the graphics are neat and vibrant, done in a very simple and cartoony style. The backgrounds are a great combination of 3-D and 2-D. Even some of the bosses are rendered in an interesting mix of 3-D and 2-D, although this tends to make them look out of place.

The actual game is hit or miss. As a starfish, a good amount of Starfy's adventure takes place underwater. While underwater, you can swim around in all directions, using his characteristic "star spin" to defeat enemies. There are also more conventional platforming segments on dry land. Starfy can also jump out of the water for an added boost to reach higher platforms. Some of the game's most interesting bits come when it mixes the water and land in interesting ways. For example, there are a few areas in the game where speheres filled with water drop from above like rain, and the player must jump between them to reach the top of the room. With its combination of underwater exploration and simplistic platforming, Starfy could be seen as "Ecco the Dolphin meets Kirby."

There's usually nothing special about the level-design, amounting to either your standard left-to- right progression or the occasional maze. However, there are some parts that are quite clever, such as a space level in which the gravity is lower and the aforementioned bit with the falling water. Some of the mazes are alright, and there is the occasional worthwhile puzzle, but this isn't the kind of game that will have you scratching your head for solutions.

Mostly, however, Starfy is content with being a rather generic platformer. You'll also find yourself in more varied, yet familiar situations such as racing on a minecart or being transformed into different creatures. While they aren't bad, these segments feel uninspired and recycled, as these sorts of segments have been done before, and been done better, in other games. One humorous segment sees Starfy rolled up into a snowball which you must guide to safety. It's one of the game's more memorable moments, but it still comes off as derivative and far too easy.

The game is usually very easy, but there are some segments that offer a bit more challenge. Even at its harder moments, however, this game is never very challenging. Even some of the secret challenges you can uncover, such as bonus rooms, secret levels, and hidden treasures, fail to provide much of a challenge, although they can still be mildly amusing. One of my favorites is a bonus room where you must keep a beach ball in the air without letting it hit the ground. As a whole, the game's on about he same level of difficulty as your average Kirby game, which is to say, not very difficult at all. With its cute visuals and lack of real challenge, it's easy to imagine that this game was geared towards younger audiences.

Starfy and his game have a lot of appeal, but it's not hard to see that it's an appeal aimed almost exclusively towards young children. For this very reason, much of the game is designed to be simple and easy, but by the same token also becomes boring. The developers have held back as to make the game more accessible to their intended audience. The end result is a game that's big on charm, but falls short on substance.

The Lengendary Starfy is entertaining for what it is, but there isn't much to it. It's cute and colorful, but doesn't have much else to offer. The occasional decent, or even inspired level design or puzzle soon gives way to a lack of challenge and tired platformer cliches. However, such gripes will most likely not matter to young children, the audience for which Starfy was clearly made. As far as kid's games go, one could do a lot worse.