Kirby’s adventure into other dimensions with updated comic-like visuals and a mouthful of extra modes probably makes it the best way to play the game today. However, the most interesting and enjoyable platforming is all stuck in the second half of the game after quite a ploddingly plain pink prelude.
After the simply excellent Kirby and the Forgotten Land and even the fun running-Royale Dream Buffet, it’s not a big surprise that the next game to get the Deluxe treatment and a rebirth on the Switch is the pink fluffball’s previous 2.5 platforming adventure. As a sci-fi fan that didn’t get to play the original back in 2011, I was pretty interested to learn that this platforming adventure is built around (not a dreamland as the name suggests) but, an interdimensional alien called Madalor that lands on Planet Popstar and tasks Kirby and friends to find the pieces of his ship, the Lor. Of course, the broad-smiling Kirby is more than willing to help, and each level we enter contains a new themed area with a series (4-5) of stages ending off with a mini-boss.
True to the franchise, the game is vibrant and oozes friendliness. Brightly coloured characters with thick black outlines give it a unique comic book look and while that won’t be to everyone’s taste, I quite liked it. A quick look through footage of how the game looked back on the Wii, and it’s clear some serious work has gone into the character models, and King Dedede in particular looks much like we’ve seen him in recent Kirby outings. Along with the pretty visuals, as we’ve come to expect, you can also look for some sweet music too.
The game is vibrant and oozes friendliness.
Fluffed then fancy?
Unfortunately, while Kirby’s trademark vacuum-like power absorption ability is quite fun (mostly thanks to a huge range of abilities – including the newly added mecha and sand abilities, which are both great) the first half of this game is a little repetitive and unengagingly straightforward. It’s not that I expect or want Kirby games to require tough-as-nails platforming and pinpoint timing. However, the first three to four levels are very simple. Nothing much happens with the use of verticality or even power-specific sections. Even in terms of collectables, I was able to collect the vast majority in my regular playthrough: in my first attempt travelling through the stage from start to end. Very little additional searching or clever strategising was needed. The bosses are also painfully samey. It seems to make very little difference what power-up you’re using against them – and no matter what they look like, using the up-move for each power-up usually does the job without much hassle.
The second half definitely gets substantially better. While bosses (perhaps excluding the last two) are still very much a button-mashing exercise, the level design definitely gets a lot more interesting from levelfive onwards. In these, moving left to right is interspersed with timed vertical floating or diving sections. Specific power-ups feature prominently (like using the ice ability to open up frozen areas) and in the last level, in particular, collecting the last two collectables (the gears) usually takes some precise platforming that while tough, feels fair and really rewards persistence and learning. I loved these sections and wished we had more of that in the earlier levels, as I suspect that if I hadn’t been reviewing this game I may not have stuck around long enough to enjoy them. And for those of you out there that may have really liked the idea of the simple early gameplay (if you’re new to platformers or want to play with young kids) the good news is you’ll probably still manage the latter levels and there’s an assist mode that you can toggle on if the going gets too tough.
The first half of this game is a little repetitive and unengagingly straightforward.
Meh-gic and Multiplayer
Unfortunately, the completely new mini-adventure, called the Magolor Epilogue, only becomes available after completing the main adventure. And while I quite enjoyed the back half, the ten-hour playthrough (and dreary beginning) meant I wasn’t really itching to explore something new. I really wish they had the option of diving into the epilogue from an earlier stage. However, without delving into details, there is a story reason that it only opens up at the end. Unfortunately, that narrative reason is why I didn’t much care for exploring Magolor’s epilogue. However, for fans of the first game – in terms of gameplay – you can expect some similar Kirby 2.5D platforming, however, collecting parts through this stage allows you to then level up Magalor and you can decide which of the abilities you want to spend the money on. While this is a nice twist, I didn’t care for the magic angle and yet again – this meant the epilogue really didn’t do it for me. Upon completing the game, a tougher version of the adventure mode also becomes available (tougher bosses, a shorter life bar) and a boss rush arena mode too. You also get access to the music of the game too. Again, these are nice additions, but, given my trudge through the original journey, I wasn’t aching to hop back in immediately, however, I suspect that if I do go back, this may be where I will spend my time.
That being said, as you explore the main adventure not only do you open up ability-specific (timed) levels and multiplayer stages which are quite fun to tackle, but you also unlock a theme-park area that allows you to take on some really short and sweet mini-games (which are called subgames here for some reason). Here you also unlock some useful items that you can use in the main adventure and even Kirby-character masks which you can don at any point. Doing these subgames alone is pretty fun, however, as a sort of party game with friends they’re a lot more fun. And talking of multiplayer – while I didn’t play in this mode much, one aspect where Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe actually trumps Forgotten Land is in multiplayer play. Each level can be played by up to 4 players. Of course, the more players you add, the more mayhem ensues, however, tackling the odd level with my wife (and being able to choose between Bandana Waddle Dee, King Dedede and Meta Knight as the other player) was really enjoyable and I can see this being a hit with families.
The more players you add the more mayhem ensues and I can see this being a hit with families.
All in all, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is a fun enough experience. The latter half is particularly well-designed and fun to play and the multiplayer and mini-game features are fun extras when you want to play with friends or family. However, pretty visuals and a few extras were not quite enough to help me forget about the slow start and even the new mini-adventure Magalor Epilogue just didn’t grab my attention. In recent Kirby titles coming to the Switch, it’s my least favourite entry. However, that doesn’t mean it’s terrible – but it does probably mean it’s very much in the OK-zone.
Review playtime to roll credits: +-10H | Review code provided by: Nintendo