Kirby has never got much attention as a Nintendo character. He is no Mario brother, no Link or Zelda, not even a Samus Aran. However, despite him being a bit overlooked, there have been some absolute belters in his game history. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is his latest adventure. (Fun fact, that last sentence was true when I started reviewing this game, but Nintendo have actually managed to sneak out another Kirby game in the last few days so that’s now a bit of a fib. Serves me right for not submitting this review in a timely manner!) It hit on Nintendo Switch a few months back and I’ve been taking a look to let you know what I think. Here are them there thoughts.
The Blob Is Back
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a 3d platforming game staring a cute pink blob. From my memory, this may actually be the first 3d Kirby game, but I’m not 100% on that, so don’t quote me on it. Anyway, Kirby can run, jump and even do a little bit of flying when he is in the mood, but it’s his ability to absorb his enemy abilities that really make his games interesting.
The story here is that Kirby, a lot of his friends and some not so friends have been scooped up and sucked into a portal that has taken them off to the titular Forgotten Land. He then sets off trying to rescue his Waddle Dee friends and find a way back home. While he is off adventuring, the rescued Waddle Dees set up a little village and fill it with unlockable goodness, challenges and minigames that you can attempt between levels if you’d like.
As Kirby explores his new forgotten land, he can hoover up his enemies and take on their powers. This could have him breathing fire or rolling around like a wrecking ball made of spikes. There is a lot of variety and depending on what skills you have on hand you may need to approach the same obstacle in very different ways.
This game ups the ability absorption by adding in a new ‘Mouthful Mode’ where Kirby can try and eat some truly colossal stuff. The opening level has him gobbling up a car and then using it to drive around. It seems a bit of a gimmick, but it’s used sparingly enough and in enough different ways that it is never unwelcome. In fact, these bits often lead to some of the best set pieces in the game.
Each stage will have you running to the goal in order to rescue some Waddle Dees. Along the way there are also little hidden challenges that will grant you a bonus Waddle Dee if you manage to complete it. What’s nice about this is that upon completing the level you get the name of one of the challenges. Complete that and you get another name to try and figure out. It’s a great way to encourage you to retry stages you’ve already visited in order to save all those sweet Waddle Dees. And remember, more Waddle Dees mean more facilities back in the hub world, so it’s worth it.
Each stage is joined by a few others to make up a world. Once you’ve freed enough of the Waddle Dees in a world then you get access to the boss level. I’d probably say these are the low point of the game if I’m being completely honest. They aren’t bad, but they are pretty pedestrian. We’re definitely not talking Dark Souls here. But again, they do have challenges attached to them to give you something to try. Sometimes it’s using a specific power to beath them, sometimes you need to not take any damage. But on the whole they are very much, get close, use ability, repeat.
But once you’ve beaten a boss, you open up the next world and you’re back to the good stuff. And some of these stages are inspired. I’m not going to argue the level design is up there with something like Mario 3d land. That game is incredible. But there were more moments in Kirby that had me smiling ear to ear at the way something looked or worked. The artistic design here is on point and they have created a game that is truly a joy to explore.
Against The Clock
But that’s not to say it isn’t challenging. There are some tricky bits in some stages, especially if you’re trying to pull off some of the hidden Waddle Dee tasks, but the high water mark of difficulty is definitely the ability challenges.
These get unlocked as you explore the map, or as you complete the stages. They grant you access to a short challenge with one of the abilities. This may have you trying to traverse a course quickly or battle waves of enemies. Whatever it is, you’re doing it against the clock. And some of those goal times are very tricky to beat. But you’ll want to beat them because doing so gives you the resources you need to upgrade your abilities back in Waddle Dee town.
What’s nice about these challenges is they get you to use the abilities in more advanced ways. Which means if you spend the time searching them out you will inevitably be better equipped, skill-wise, to deal with whatever it is the game throws at you.
Upgrading your abilities is as simple as beating these challenge courses and owning the blueprint for the upgraded ability. Mostly these are things you can stumble on while you’re out and about on your travels, but some require other methods to get hold of them.
There are also a handful of minigames as well as a sort of Boss Rush mode that can be played to earn extra resources to unlock the collectables or upgrades. There are loads of these little collectable statuettes that can be found on the levels, but you can also just buy random ones with any coins you collect back in Waddle Dee village. These are purely aesthetic and just fill in a little bit about the lore on the rarer items.
There is a lot to do in Kirby and the Forgotten Land if you want to get everything out of it. You can absolutely scream through it at a pace and get to the end credits without too much stress if that’s all you’re after. There is even a casual mode that makes the game a little easier, not that I found the regular mode that taxing most of the time. But if you want to get all the secrets, pass every test, collect all the statuettes and complete all of the minigames you’ve got a lot of playtime ahead of you.
Gone, But Not Forgotten
This is the sort of game I love. Some games are polished to perfection and while they are technically very good games, I find myself losing interest in them. Kirby on the other hand is definitely not a perfectly polished experience. But there are a lot of interesting ideas here. Sure, not everyone sticks the landing but the high points more than make up for the misses.
I should probably mention that there is a 2 player mode as well where one player gets to take on the role of a Waddle Dee. This is a nice little addition to experiment with, but it’s definitely not a headline feature. It’s more of something you can sit two kids down playing so they don’t argue too much.
I compared Kirby and the Forgotten Land to Mario 3d Land a bit earlier. If you asked me which is the better game. It’s Mario, hands down. But I got about halfway through that, put it down and I’ve never really gone back. It almost felt sterile by comparison. I’d seen everything before, even though it was brilliant. Kirby on the other hand has had me hooked since I started it. There are puzzles that have very satisfying solutions, levels that give you opportunities to explore a little and reward you when you do. The new mouthful mode is lots of fun and leads to some very interesting game sections. Sure, the bosses aren’t great and the polish isn’t applied as uniformly but because of these flaws I find the game interesting and intriguing and I was excited to see what it would show me next. Kirby is not the better game, but it’s the one I want to play.