Kirby and the Forgotten Land is the latest adventure for the friend-shaped puffball on the Nintendo Switch thanks to HAL Laboratory and Nintendo. When a mysterious rift in the sky sucks in all the inhabitants of Planet Popstar and the Waddle Dees are kidnapped, Kirby (and Bandana Waddle Doo) is their only hope. A new adventure ensues to rescue the Waddle Dees and stop whatever malevolent force is at hand.
Kirby games are very simple and very fun. You play as a pink blob with a huge mouth who sucks things in, spits them out, and adopts the powers of various enemies to traverse the world, uncover secrets, and defeat more enemies. What makes Kirby and the Forgotten Land unique among Kirby games is twofold. First, it’s a fully 3D environment, adding a perfectly natural extra dimension to the flying, floating, swimming, and more that Kirby platforming pertains. Second, it has absolutely no additional gimmicks, unlike basically every other Kirby game for more than ten years.
The Kirby franchise started simple. In fact, so simple that Kirby didn’t even have the trademark pink hue yet. The games throughout the Dreamland era were simple platformers that build upon one another’s successes and didn’t deviate radically from the core. But the Kirby franchise has grown substantially, including the totally unique racer game Kirby Air Ride, the adorably stylized entry Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and the very gimmick-heavy more recent entries in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Kirby: Planet Robobot, and Kirby Star Allies. It has never been a franchise afraid to try things completely out of left field and for the most part, the unique directions the games have gone have helped them stand out as interesting or novel, if not pretty good.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is good. It takes all of what has made Kirby games work over the years and done it with the power of the Switch. The platforming and combat alike are simple enough to be great for new gamers while always having loads of secrets to uncover for gamers of any experience. Rescuing every Waddle Dee in each stage takes skill and perception and probably multiple level playthroughs, which is fine, because the gameplay is always fun, the visuals incredible, and the music bopping. Plus, with such a large number of copy abilities to play with and freely switch between in the game’s hub town, there’s no end to the ways you can approach levels or boss battles.
The thing is, there’s just nothing especially memorable about the game either. Lacking in special gimmicks or really any variations on the original formula, you’d be forgiven if you forgot about this game in short order and stuck with the nostalgia of older entries or allure of the more unique titles. Again, not because the game is bad, it’s quite good and absolutely enjoyable. It’s just un-special. There is one thing that Kirby and the Forgotten Land does that is unique to the game, but frankly, it’s so mundane in the context of the gameplay itself that the memes about it are more memorable than the gameplay, and just barely.
Mouthful Mode is a new Kirby trick that lets you basically suck of everyday objects like traffic cones, cars, and staircases and do one particular thing with each of them like poke holes in the ground, fall over, or flow boats around. The thing is, that these segments are usually brief, always repetitive, and are simply less interesting than any of Kirby’s copy abilities.
I like the visualization of them. They’re quite funny the way that Kirby gets wrapped around these gigantic objects, and whatever hat you’re wearing to represent a copy ability winds up stays on your head. But their utilities feel limited. I rushed through those parts just so I could get back to whatever ability I was using. And because pretty much all of these objects have singular platforming uses or only incidental combat maneuverability, they just don’t feel special in the way that giant robots or epic yarn do.
Setting aside the forgetability of the game though, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is certainly one of the more enjoyable games I’ve played of late. It’s simple and smooth to pick up and put down, there’s always some other path to try and take to feel like you’re smart for finding a hidden Waddle Dee and then another pass you just never saw and can’t believe you missed.
The simplicity is the game’s greatest asset as well as its greatest weakness. It makes it fun and simple platformer filled with great copy abilities and a drive to work towards upgrading them all into cooler and more deadly versions. But it won’t likely have the staying power of some of the franchise’s earlier entries either. It’s a AAA Switch game made by Nintendo though, so assuredly it’s fun and will have its fans nonetheless.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is available now on Nintendo Switch.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Kirby and the Forgotten Land’s simplicity is its greatest asset as well as its greatest weakness. It makes it a fun and simple platformer filled with great copy abilities and a drive to work towards upgrading them all into cooler and more deadly versions. But it won’t likely have the staying power of some of the franchise’s earlier entries either. It’s a AAA Switch game though made by Nintendo, so surely it’s fun and will have its fans nonetheless.