Kirby's Return to Dreamland Review

By Russ Frushtick - Posted Oct 25, 2011

This retro-inspired Kirby game is sure to please old school fans of the franchise, and may even bring in some new ones.

The Pros
  • Classic Kirby gameplay with up to 4 players
  • Charming, adorable 2.5D graphics
The Cons
  • Side characters limited to multiplayer
  • Low difficulty level

Kirby's Return to Dream Land Review:

Nintendo has plenty of familiar heroes in its roster: Link, Mario and Samus. Each of those heroes has certain defining characteristics, which are basically required in their respective games. Link swings a sword, Mario jumps and Samus shoots energy blasts from her cannon arm. If you were to say the same thing about Kirby, another one of Nintendo's popular heroes, you'd likely exclaim that it's not a Kirby game if he doesn't suck enemies up and steal their powers. And yet you may be surprised by just how many Kirby games there have been where he could not suck in the least. In fact, the last two Kirby games, Mass Attack and Epic Yarn, had no copy abilities at all. Thankfully, though, Kirby's Return to Dream Land is a return to form.


The New Kirby

Those who played New Super Mario Bros. Wii will recognize that Kirby's Return to Dream Land is a very similar effort. Take the core gameplay from the original Kirby game, spruce up the graphics, add co-op multiplayer and you're half way there.

Return takes its cues from Kirby's Dream Land, a game that's nearly 20 years old. And yes, over all that time, not too much has changed. Kirby is still pink and round. He can still fill himself up with air and float around. And, predictably, he can still steal the powers of his enemies by swallowing them. Return to Dream Land has 20 of these abilities, but it also adds new, super-powered versions of familiar abilities that cause Kirby to summon massive, screen-filling swords and dragons made of fire.

The gameplay is filled with platforming tropes like key collection and switch-hitting. Admittedly it's not super challenging, especially when compared to games like New Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong Country Returns. Unlike those titles, Return to Dream Land is more for the casual crowd, though hardcore gamers will undoubtedly enjoy searching high and low for hidden trinkets scattered throughout each level.

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Friends (and Enemies) Join The Fun

One of the shining aspects of Kirby's Return to Dreamland is that it supports 4-player co-op. The first player is always going to be pink Kirby, but the remaining three can take on the role of franchise familiars like Metaknight, Waddle Dee and King Dee Dee Dee. Each of the side characters has a completely different power set (none of them can steal enemy powers), complete with hammers, spears and gliding wings. Co-op players looking for a more traditional Kirby experience can still opt to play as a second, third or fourth Kirby, taking on different colors.

Joining a game is tremendously easy, with no need to pause the action. So long as another Wii controller is synced, players can simply hit start, select their character and jump in, all without the first player missing a beat. Players can exit the game in the exact same way, making multiplayer as unobtrusive an experience as I've ever seen it, whether you're playing as Kirby or the supporting gang.

The character variety is a great touch, but it's disappointing that, if played solo, you're unable to experience playing as the three alternate characters. They are only accessible in multiplayer. This has to do with level design and the fact that copy abilities are often required to progress, but it's still unfortunate for those without Kirby-loving friends.

Kirby's Return to Dream Land

The Little Things

Even though the Wii remains strictly in the non-HD era, Nintendo knows how to make the art design work for the lower resolution. Kirby's visuals are bright, cheery and filled with hilarious detail. For example, when swimming under water, Kirby automatically dons a snorkel mask. Float up to the surface and he'll tread water in an inner tube. Kirby's Return to Dream Land has tons of these small, visual touches that do nothing but make the game more adorable.

Kirby's Return to Dream Land

A Game For All

It's true that the Wii has not exactly been robust in terms of its software line-up recently, but when Nintendo does put something out, it's usually special. Kirby's Return to Dream Land is just that, a charming throwback that will appeal not only to older, nostalgic fans, but also to the younger set, who won't find the difficulty too overwhelming. If you're looking for a great gaming gift to play with younger cousins or nephews this holiday, Kirby's an excellent choice.