When the Switch was announced, many of us expected 3DS support to dry up quickly, even—perhaps especially—when Nintendo claimed that it wouldn't. But here we are: four months after seemingly being usurped, the old portable still has new games coming out at a steady rate, with plenty on the slate for the rest of the year. Nintendo's about to release a new "New" 2DS model, while two new Pokémon games should keep sales ticking over well into 2018.
It was a Kirby game that convinced me to pick up my 3DS once more back in April, and here's another, available as you read these words. Again, it's an expansion of a mini-game found in the excellent Planet Robobot; and, again, it's a pleasant surprise. By now, Kirby games shouldn't be unexpectedly fun, but there's a strange air of modesty about each one that leads me to underestimate them every time. It's like the opposite of the infamous Sonic cycle: the announcement of a new Kirby rarely stirs the blood, yet they're a reliably good time when you do actually sit down to play them.
Blowout Blast's fundamentals are as basic as they come: you inhale enemies and spit them back out to destroy others. In fact, you can complete most levels just by sucking them up one by one and firing them offstage. But the real aim is to trigger chain reactions. Ingest a trio of flying enemies and you can time the release to take out a row of bouncing ones. Gulp down a charging bear and you can regurgitate it to destroy a cluster of opponents otherwise resistant to Kirby's gob-hoover. Corralling a group and then taking them all down in a single shot is like nailing a strike in bowling, and the delightful hit-pause that accentuates the feat makes it all the more satisfying.
Above: 'Kirby's Blowout Blast' launch trailer
As with every Kirby game, these stages are designed to be completed with ease, and mastered over time. The platinum medal targets, even on the early worlds, are tough—you'll need to earn each of the four badges that reward you at the end of a stage for taking no damage, finishing at speed, collecting every coin and defeating every enemy. The (gorgeously moonlit) EX stages, which are only unlocked once you've earned gold on every level within a world, make it trickier still. As you progress, you'll find enemies that turn aggressive when you try to suck them in, and others clutching coins that leap to their deaths when you get too close, preventing you from achieving the top rank.
It's a game that makes the most of its conscious limitations, in other words—and while the enemies and bosses are all familiar, finding the most efficient ways to beat them means they're an entertainingly different kind of challenge here. It's a reminder, too, of Kirby's malleability as a mascot: developer HAL Laboratory somehow keeps finding ways to repurpose his abilities, and he always seems well suited to deviations from formula. As such, you can happily file this alongside Mass Attack, Tilt 'n' Tumble, Canvas Curse and the rest as another successful spin-off. The title says it all: this might well be Kirby's farewell to 3DS, but his final blowout really is a blast.