A screengrab from the video game “Kirby Star Allies” is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Nintendo of America MANDATORY CREDIT The popular pink puffball returns in “Kirby Star Allies,” and he’s brought friends by Curtis Withers, The Canadian Press Posted Mar 16, 2018 7:56 am PDT Last Updated Mar 16, 2018 at 8:40 am PDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Kirby, the protean pink puffball who has charmed video gamers for over 25 years, is making his debut on the Nintendo Switch — and he’s brought some frenemies along for the journey.“Kirby Star Allies” is a side-scrolling platformer that allows up to four players to team up and battle baddies and combine powers to solve puzzles. The key mechanic introduced this time around is Kirby’s ability to turn foe into friend that becomes a member of his adventuring party, opening up a wealth of combinations for players to experiment with.The “Kirby” series, a Nintendo staple franchise going back to the Game Boy, has never been one to tax the skills of experienced gamers, and “Star Allies” is no different. But what the game lacks in difficulty it makes up for in charm, and this multiplayer romp works well as an entry-level experience for those new to video games or as a fun, low-stakes co-op adventure.The game’s plot, such as it is, sees Kirby use his unique abilities to save his home world of Dream Land from the corrupting influence of a mysterious heart-shaped rock.Seemingly alone against a host of enemies, Kirby can inhale a foe and take on its abilities. For example, devouring a fire-based fiend will give Kirby the ability to belch a stream of flame.Kirby can also turn certain enemies into allies by hitting them with heart-shaped projectiles. The fun comes in forming a party that can combine abilities. If a fire-based Kirby has a wind-based ally on his team, they can team up to send torrents of fire across the screen. Kirby also shows his chops as a championship-calibre skip, as stone-based allies can be turned into curling rocks and used to bowl over a multitude of enemies in one throw.Abilities can also be combined to solve simple puzzles, which often reveal secret rooms or collectibles. Fire abilities can be used to light fuses that destroy walls, or fire a cannon that will send Kirby and his friends flying to areas that would be otherwise impossible to reach.The game’s artificial intelligence controls Kirby’s allies in single-player mode, and does so with a reasonable degree of effectiveness. But the game is a lot more fun when other players join in and take over the other member’s of Kirby’s foursome. The action can get chaotic, but the forgiving difficulty level of “Kirby Star Allies” allows even gaming newbies to play an effective role in the adventure.However, it’s that same forgiving gameplay that makes the mixing and matching of team members feel less effective to experienced game players. While some enemies have elemental weaknesses that can be exploited, most of them are defeated so easily that it hardly seems worth the bother. Additionally, enemies don’t seem to have any elemental resistance, so while a fire-based enemy is vulnerable to water attacks, it doesn’t appear to have any advantage to fending off fire attacks.Some boss battles do have enemies with mechanics to be aware of, but for the most part they can just be beaten into submission by Kirby and his friends. There are some platforming elements, but since Kirby can remain airborne for an unlimited duration, the challenge of these segments is diluted as well.The game is over if Kirby runs out of lives, but he racks them up at a prodigious rate by collecting stars throughout the game’s levels, and loses them very infrequently. Players may be more likely to lose a life by losing track of Kirby in the chaos and having him fall off a ledge than by any sort of enemy attack.That said, Kirby games have filled a certain niche with aplomb for two-and-a-half decades, and “Star Allies” continues that streak. The high-definition visuals here are very pretty, and the character design is cute without being cloying. Kids will fall in love with Kirby and his cohorts, and all but the most curmudgeonly adults will find it difficult to resist the game’s charms.Those looking for a platforming challenge may want to wait until the famously difficult “Donkey Kong Country” makes its way to the Switch in a couple of months. But as a casual, likable adventure that can by enjoyed with friends and family, “Kirby Star Allies” does not disappoint.“Kirby Star Allies” is rated E for all ages and retails for around $80.