My Gameboy Color used to have a copy of Kirby’s Dream Land in it so often it was almost fused to the back. Loading into sound test, looping through the tracks until the batteries went flat. I love Kirby games, they’ve always fit the Nintendo remit of ‘Mario but easier’ at first glance but have always had a difficult challenge and great designs boiling beneath the surface. Even the 3D looking Kirby games have either been 2D gameplay or a spin off from the series and Kirby and the Forgotten Land is Hal’s first steps into Kirby 3D platforming. If only all 3D platformers started this strongly.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land feels like a 3D Sonic game where the platforming and attacks have been refined to run perfectly. There are nods to Mario Odyssey in the levels and jumping but Kirby is both more frantic and forgiving. Kirby has a large collection of powers to take from monsters (or just lying around) and each can be levelled up to a 3rd maximum form. This makes Kirby and the Forgotten Land more of an action/platformer than just a typical platformer game. You’ll want to get to grips with your favourite power and the ability to dodge attacks with the guard movements, quickly finding the best way to deal with an areas themed obstacles. Some bosses become incredibly easy once you guard and dodge but most have bonus objectives for these exact skills and the difficulty dials up as you go.
Your main goal is to save the Waddle Dee’s and clearing a stage will net you a few but it’s the secret objectives in each stage with hidden Waddle Dee’s that get you the most. Unlike previous Kirby games there’s always the powers you need for secrets in the stage (despite the ability to carry them between stages) and you’re rewarded for exploring or experimenting with the powers with a Waddle Dee or capsule. There are collectable figurines you unlock from the capsules but exploring can also reward you with scrolls you need to upgrade your powers at the hub. Everything ties in incredibly well and doing anything in Kirby and the Forgotten Land will reward you appropriately.
The hub area -Waddle Dee Town is a fantastic feature and the more Waddle Dee’s and items you find as you progress, the more it upgrades. Eventually you’ll be unlocking items to boost health, carry items to heal and various minigames and challenges. Waddle Dee Town feels like the hub in Sonic Jam and there are little hidden extras nestled between the colosseum, the archives and galleries. The loop of exploring the level map, completing extra challenges for power stars to upgrade your powers and then heading back to finish a stage and find more is fantastic. Even exploring the world map can result in extra coins or challenges, Kirby and the Forgotten Land gets you into the mindset that exploring is worth the time.
Mouthful mode is essentially a limited power that you can only use for a set area of the levels or challenges. That being said the creative ways you’ll be using them gets progressively more challenging the further you go. It’s fantastic how well signposted everything can be. For example, in one challenge room Kirby will absorb a car and a timer will be nearby showing the gold time as 5 seconds and silver as 2 minutes which clearly indicates there’s a shortcut right by the start. By the end of the story you’ll have exhausted the mouthful abilities and will have seen everything there is but the fact all of the abilities feels unique and fun is exactly what you’d expect from the best indie platformers.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a real looker. The Switch has its limitations when it comes to vast areas and showing off the destroyed world but that doesn’t stop the levels being wondrously vast and detailed. There’s such a tangible amount of charm to everything, from the posters and state of the world to the colours used to make the areas stand out and feel unique. Kirby is animated superbly as are all the enemies and items with all the text and effects easy to navigate and see. Kirby and the Forgotten Land has a nice trick where each new area has a stage that has an establishing shot to set the scene then gets on with the linear paths, it makes everything cohesive and an adventure you’ll want to see through to the end.
What lets Kirby and the Forgotten Land down is the music. The audio is fantastic and the musical number that plays out is a good one (although the fictional language seems unnecessary) but a lot of the stages music blends together and there’s none of the charm or unique stand-out tracks the series is known for. You’ll get a hint of Green Greens or Dedede’s theme but for the most part it feels like an orchestra that’s playing music it wasn’t written for. Some of the boss battle music is so messy it felt unnecessary which is a shame as the closing scene nails the feeling of the moment exactly.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is absolutely packed with content that would make a Mario game blush. Each stage has multiple secrets but if you miss them it will tell you one of the missed secrets at the end. There are multiple volumes of collectable figurines, challenge areas, target times for challenges and after the fantastic story ends there’s additional extras that won’t be spoilt here. The reason all of this content is fun to get to is the respect to the player’s time. Not only are stages enjoyable and clearly have a faster path for you to find, but if you miss out on a secret during a scripted section there’s always a replay star nearby which allows you to repeat that section again. All platformers take note, that feature is the best I’ve seen in years and gives you the ability to just have fun and not worry about missing out on secrets or items first time through.
There’s a little repetition in Kirby and the Forgotten Land. Once you’ve defeated a mini-boss expect to fight it multiple times before the credits roll. The lack of an option to buy multiple capsules and the capsules themselves having duplicates is frustrating. Eventually these issues all boil down to nit picks as at its core Kirby and the Forgotten Land is an absolute delight. What other first 3D Platformer games have optional multiplayer and an easier difficulty for kids? There are moments of real joy and charm that will make even the most grumpy gamer chuckle and laugh. Right up until the end credits Kirby and the Forgotten Land throws out fantastic ideas and incredibly great scenes but most importantly it’s just a big ball of fun.
9/10 – You’ll want a mouthful of this.