Show me someone whose heart doesn’t melt at the sight of Kirby, and I’ll show you a liar. Since debuting in 1992, Nintendo‘s adorable pink protagonist has bounced his way through over 30 games, winning fans across the world for his cutesy looks and willingness to devour all sentient life in his way. Kirby’s Return To Dream Land Deluxe (a remake of the 2011 Wii game of the same name) is Kirby’s latest adventure, with the titular hero helping intergalactic traveller Magolor’s crashed spaceship so they can journey across the stars.
If you’re coming to Dream Land off the back of last year’s brilliant Kirby And The Forgotten Land, it’s worth mentioning that this will likely be a very different game from the one you’re used to. While Forgotten Land was a post-apocalyptic 3D adventure, Return To Dream Land is a 2D platformer with less emphasis on exploring and combat, and more on navigating treacherous side-scrolling stages.
On paper they’re both very different games, but Kirby is the tie that binds. His signature ability – being able to hoover just about anything into his cavernous maw – is an integral part of Return To Dream Land, and if any of his unfortunate meals have their own flashy abilities, Kirby gets to borrow them. These copy abilities are as creative as they are hilarious – it doesn’t get old to see Kirby dressed as a sword-toting ninja, or hopping into a mech and riddling enemies with lasers. Not all of these abilities are created equal though: several of them, like the Tornado or Water copy abilities, have moves that come with generous invincibility frames; meaning you’re able to safely take Kirby on the offensive without taking damage. Moves like this can feel a little too strong on the occasions they’re offered to you, as they allow you to blitz through a stage with very little pushback.
However, they aren’t the strongest move in Kirby’s arsenal. Return To Dream Land introduces Super Abilities, which are wildly powerful yet time-limited copy powers that transform Kirby into a hot pink avatar of destruction. These are usually gained from eating bosses or rare monsters, and are incredibly fun: think summoning a fire dragon to clear your path, or using a giant sword to carve through the map itself. Your time with these abilities are typically brief, but brimming with joy – you haven’t lived until you’ve played a game of bowling with Kirby’s face plastered over a house-sized snowball.
Return To Dream Land‘s biggest weakness is its difficulty, which is often underwhelming. The game’s stages pump up the challenge as you explore Planet Popstar and beyond, with increasingly intricate jumping puzzles and environmental dangers to compete with. However, Return To Dream Land‘s boss fights usually fall flat. Each stage usually packs a miniboss that you can punch up before they’ve left their flashy introduction, and while every world’s finale offers a much bigger boss fight with their own stage, these bigger baddies usually benefit from a larger health pool rather than any real bump in difficulty. Return To Dream Land excels elsewhere, but exciting boss fights are few and far between, and it can feel like following up a Michelin Star meal with a bag of Quavers – fine, but lacking in comparison.
Early in the game, Magalor offers players an easy mode, which involves extra health for Kirby and an emergency supply drop whenever his health bar sinks too low. It makes sense for Kirby‘s family-friendly nature, but even without his assistance Return To Dream Land is relatively breezy, and sometimes I found myself wishing he’d offered to make my life harder.
However, these brawls are little more than a blemish on Return To Dream Land‘s fantastic stages. Gorgeous environmental design makes each one of Kirby’s pitstops a delight to traverse, and while each one is fairly short, you can sink far more time into finding the optional objectives hidden in each stage. While Return To Dream Land‘s main story is fairly short, Deluxe‘s new epilogue – which follows Magolor on his own adventure – adds another chunk of platforming goodness that wasn’t in the original game.
Magalor is also the patron of Merry Magoland, a theme park bursting with minigames that range from testing your reflexes in a samurai duel to blasting targets at a fairground shooting game. There’s a good amount of games on offer and while they can all be played single-player, the real fun is in treating Magoland like a party game with local co-op. The game’s £50 price tag hinges on how much you’re going to enjoy these side activities – it’s quite pricey if you’re here for the story alone, but Magoland’s replayability offers a lot to dig into.
Back on Magolor’s ship, a number of challenge modes can be unlocked by gathering cogs in the story mode. These frantic time-trials test your prowess with Kirby’s copy abilities, and offer a little bit more replayability than the usual campaign stages since you’re tested on both the speed you tear through them, along with the amount of coins you can grab while doing so. Short and sweet, these stages are delightfully easy to retry – does watching a sand-imbued Kirby slide-tackle critters ever get old?
Ultimately, watching Kirby do just about anything is what makes Return To Dream Land the delight that it is. Truly great platformers – think Banjo Kazooie, Mario, Spyro – thrive on the charm of their stars, and Kirby’s the loveliest of the bunch. Whether it’s watching his arms swing as he waddles through the stage, bloat impossibly to float across gaps, or plant his stubby little feet for an extra strong inhale, developer HAL Laboratory‘s exquisite animations lend real weight to Return To Dream Land‘s platforming.
While the dual-stick inputs can take some getting used to in the early stages, it ultimately makes for smoother control later down the line, when your travels take you to stages beyond the perils of Planet Popstar, which require far more dextrous control of Kirby. Whether Forgotten Land left hankering you for more of Kirby or you’re just looking for a good entry-point into the series, Return To Dream Land Deluxe is pure joy.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe launches on February 24 for Nintendo Switch.
Kirby’s Return To Dream Land Deluxe is an utterly charming platformer that serves as a wonderful gateway to the Kirby series’ 2D side. Though it struggles with laughably weak bosses, every second of the story mode is a visual treat; while a wealth of side activities and optional collectibles give Kirby’s latest adventure some welcome depth.
- The story mode is good wholesome fun
- Merry Magoland makes for a brilliant party game
- Super Abilities are a blast
- Boss fights lack difficulty
- Controlling Kirby’s copy abilities can take some getting used to
- It’s a bit pricey if you’re not interested in the side activities