‘Kirby and the Forgotten Land’ review: a breath of fresh air

Breathe it in

Kirby and the Forgotten Land – a 3D platformer that’ll immediately be familiar to fans of Mario Odyssey – is like a shot of pure joy. Playing as the titular giant pink… something, you’ll jump around post-apocalyptic levels trying to rescue “Waddle Dees”, essentially sentient macguffins.

This being a Kirby game, you can inhale enemies to gain their abilities. However, in this specific Kirby game, you can also use “mouthful mode” to inhale objects like vending machines, traffic cones and even a functional car which you can drive about. The car delivers one of the biggest highlights of the game’s opening, with you driving down the road as the opening credits roll.

This is the first 3D platformer in the Kirby franchise, and there are similarities here to Mario Odyssey and that game’s magic hat which lets you possess stuff, but these similarities are only the merest of black marks against the game. This is a testament to how enjoyable Kirby and the Forgotten Land is and how creative HAL can be, that it is a superlative experience regardless of the similarities to, well, nearly every other 3D platformer Nintendo has published in the last few generations.

Kirby And The Forgotten Land. Credit: Nintendo.
Kirby And The Forgotten Land. Credit: Nintendo.

Like all good Nintendo-published games, Kirby throws interesting set pieces and ideas at you at a frenetic pace, giving you just long enough to appreciate something before it’s ripped away and you’re given something new to play with. An early highlight is taking control of the giant traffic cones, which Kirby can use – with your help – to smash into the ground and uncover hidden objects. It’s fun and raises a smile before you’re off to the next thing, twatting enemies with cans fired out of a vending machine, or hoovering up a guy tossing fireballs so that you can wield fireballs.

Most of the different power-ups you can swallow up are engaging and fun, but occasionally you’ll encounter an idea that doesn’t work or execution that’s slightly botched – it rarely matters, as you’re soon onto the next one. There’s often the choice of several different items at any given time, so if you’re someone that doesn’t enjoy playing as Kirby with a sword, you can always try your hand instead at being Kirby with a flamethrower or Kirby but a hedgehog.

The post-apocalyptic environments – rendered in the same cutesy bubblegum aesthetic as the sentient whoopie cushion that serves as our lead –  are gorgeous and a joy to explore, with each level a bite-sized chunk of dystopia for you to run around in, inhaling food, enemies and random bits of scenery with gusto. Additional challenges pop off as you do cool things, rewarding you for finding a hidden path or opening up a flower.

Kirby And The Forgotten Land. Credit: Nintendo.
Kirby And The Forgotten Land. Credit: Nintendo.

I also got a real kick out of the boss fights. They’re often quite simple – the first fight against a giant gorilla was as easy as dashing up to his big gorilla legs and blasting him with ice breath until he froze and then perished, but it’s still altogether adorable, something that feels pretty fitting for the game at large, really.

Away from this, there is plenty of additional dressing around the actual levels themselves. Some of them: flying down a route spewing ice out of your mouth, is great fun. However, the Waddle-Dee village, which unlocks new shops and parts of the game and functions as a hub area that grows out as you rescue more and more Waddle-Dees, feels like a distraction that didn’t really click with me, although having a spot to go and review your cutscenes and play with a few new systems is a nice option for those who want it.

However, one essential area you’ll spend a lot of time with is the Waddle-Dee Weapons Shop in that village gives you the ability to evolve some of the abilities that you pick up, letting you double down on the things you enjoy and making them even more powerful.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land feels like a perfect palette cleanser to come after titles like Elden Ring or Sifu with its bright tone and chilled play. But don’t get put off by the cutesy appearance, Kirby is laser-focused and, if you’re looking for it, offers plenty of challenge. It’s a strong first entry into the third dimension for Kirby as a character, with the game’s charm outweighing the game’s flaws. It’s hard not to smile to yourself as you tool around the world map clinging to the back of a star, and Kirby and the Forgotten Land has plenty of moments like this. It’s a shallow game, but you won’t regret the time you spend with it.

Kirby And The Forgotten Land launches on March 25 for Nintendo Switch. 

The Verdict

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is another saccharine sweet bundle of joy for the Switch, but it’s also the perfect antidote to years of doom and gloom in the real world and video games, presenting a compelling version of the apocalypse that actually seems… pretty okay.

Pros

  • Solid platforming
  • Visually engaging
  • Mouthful mode offers up a ton of creative bits

Cons

  • Metagame feels like an unnecessary distraction
  • Some abilities feel noticeably weaker as part of the roster
  • A little too similar to Nintendo’s other 3D platformers
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