‘Kirby’s Dream Buffet’ review: so cute yet so shallow

Charming from the start, that appeal gradually fades like a strawberry harvest

K
irby’s Dream Buffet
is frivolous, bite-sized chunks of fun that’s ideally suited for a free-to-play world and, well, it’s not free. Taking inspiration from Fall Guys which is now free-to-play, this is a bold move by Nintendo. Does it pay off? Kind of.

Riding on an awful lot of Nintendo charm, Kirby’s Dream Buffet starts out promising. It’s cute. Of course it’s cute, it’s Kirby. He might be 30 years old now but he’s just as loveable as a little puppy that’s eager to eat everything up around it. The premise is simple. You control Kirby as he negotiates four rounds of minigames alongside either other players or CPU bots. Each game only takes about 10 minutes so it’s perfectly suited for when you’ve got a spare few minutes and not enough time to dive into a longer game. It’s also intuitive to figure out so it’s ideally suited for the whole family, even if they don’t normally play games.

Everything is food-themed and adorable. For the most part, you’re either racing to the end of a food-filled obstacle course, or trying to collect strawberries in a different way. Strawberries are everything here. Race through the course, avoiding blockades and jumping over platforms, and if you reach the end where you can jump on a stack of 50, 20, or 10 strawberries. Getting the 50 strawberries before the other players is a huge advantage so there’s a fair bit of tension near the end of each course.

Kirby's Dream Buffet. Credit: Nintendo.
Kirby’s Dream Buffet. Credit: Nintendo.

The obstacle course levels are further enhanced by the use of copy abilities. These abilities give you power-ups like turning into a tornado that flies through everything or burning up into a Kirby-shaped fireball that can take out your opponents. Also, the more strawberries you eat, the ever so slightly bigger Kirby becomes which makes a key difference if you want to avoid being knocked off track by your opponent.

Other minigames include needing to grab falling strawberries faster than everyone else, such as by jumping into teacups that are littered with them. You get it. The theme is collecting strawberries.

Kirby's Dream Buffet. Credit: Nintendo.
Kirby’s Dream Buffet. Credit: Nintendo.

That’s even a battle royale at the end which feels loosely like a Smash Bros game but with strawberries (of course). You’re all in an arena and have to knock each other out, or simply focus on collecting lots and lots of strawberries. By this stage, some Kirbys are bigger than others thanks to having collected a lot of fruit beforehand and the bigger you are, the greater your advantage at the end.

Fortunately, to balance things out a little, at the very end, you’re all placed on scales and given bonus strawberries for completing certain feats such as collecting the most strawberries (who’d have thought it?), knocking down barriers, or hovering the longest amount of time. This can change things up significantly and as you play, you’ll find yourself trying to focus on these aims, especially if you know you’re lagging behind on fruit collections.

Kirby's Dream Buffet. Credit: Nintendo.
Kirby’s Dream Buffet. Credit: Nintendo.

Once things are wrapped up, you gain experience, level up, and unlock some cute collectibles and unlockable items. These include costumes, different Kirby colours, new music tracks, and new race tracks too. There’s a lot to unlock here even if most of it is a tad shallow. With a dozen or more different courses, Kirby’s Dream Buffet sounds substantial on the surface but there’s not much difference between them. It’s hard to remember which is which or even figure out what your favourite one is, all because it’s pretty shallow stuff.

Shallow is truly Kirby’s middle name right now. Kirby’s Dream Buffet is definitely fun but something you’ll play for hours? Unlikely. It lives up to its name. It’s a buffet, not a three-course meal, after all. There’s basically no fun in playing against CPU bots so it’s vital that the community is reasonably active for now, but online play is laggy.

Sometimes, I’d play a match and things would be silky smooth. Other times, I’d be moving across the obstacle course at under one frame per second and wondering if I was just about to get booted from the session. I never was so I’m guessing the online code is stronger than it seems but lag really takes all the fun out of things. There’s a split-screen two player mode but the real jewel in its crown – four player mode – is only available if you have four Switches and four copies of the game between you all. That’s an expensive way to enjoy a frivolous game that you’ll eventually abandon in favour of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Super Smash Bros anyway.

Kirby's Dream Buffet. Credit: Nintendo.
Kirby’s Dream Buffet. Credit: Nintendo.

Granted, despite all these flaws, Kirby’s Dream Buffet is a lot cheaper than the above games. It’s at a budget price and it needs to be, but that does make you more forgiving. Kirby’s Dream Buffet is certainly fun starting out and something you’ll dip into from time to time, but gradually, it’s going to sink down your Switch playlist as it lacks true longevity.

Kirby’s Dream Buffet is out now for Nintendo Switch.

The Verdict

Kirby’s Dream Buffet is a cute distraction. Lacking the depth of anything that will keep you coming back for a long time to come, it’s still an enjoyable ride while it lasts. A four player split-screen mode would have been a huge boon here, or just something that offered more variety, but at this low price, that never ending cuteness that Nintendo always provides continues here.

Pros

  • Very quick to learn
  • Ideal for all the family
  • Utterly adorable at times

Cons

  • Laggy online play
  • No four player split-screen mode
  • Lacks depth
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