Review: Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Does Kirby's first full 3D foray have star power?

Joseph Caddick
24th May 2022
Image: Nintendo
For the 30th anniversary of the Kirby series, the pink puffball and his friends finally made the jump to a full 3D adventure. Right off the bat, it lets you know that this game is going to be just different enough from the previous entries of the series.
Kirby and some ducks running around the abandoned Wondaria theme park.
Image: Nintendo

The story, like any Kirby game, is relatively simple. Whilst enjoying a day in the sun, Kirby is suddenly sucked up by a wormhole into an alternate dimension. Here, the Beast Pack have taken over, and the cities have fallen into ruin. They're kidnapping Waddle Dees and it's up to Kirby to stop them.

Speaking of Waddle Dees, saving them is the main objective in this game, like collecting Power Stars in Super Mario Galaxy. Each level has a few of them at the end, as well as some secret ones that are more like Green Stars in Super Mario 3D World. The gameplay of Kirby and the Forgotten Land is actually reminiscent of 3D World, with a world map connecting dozens of levels, each of which are packed with their own secrets. Each world also ends with an impeccably designed boss, offering some of the best challenges in the series.

Kirby looking shocked as he rides a Warp Star.
Image: Nintendo

If the surprisingly small level total isn't enough for you, the game makes sure to pack in lots of bonus content. Kirby can work a shift at a café, go fishing, or do a motion control minigame that resembles Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble. Brief spoiler, but the postgame also unlocks a harder version of the previous worlds, including amped up versions of the bosses. Unlike other series in which this would be a brazen example of padding (looking at you, Crash 4), it works exceptionally well here, with a narrative reason for this.

Brief story spoilers, but let me just say, this game gets weirdly dark. This is par for the course of a Kirby game, but I found myself genuinely unsettled from the start of the last level until the final boss fight. It's hard to think such a cutesy game can create an atmosphere as unnerving as this.

Simultaneously, the game is also hilarious. Mouthful Mode - where Kirby's skin covers the entirety of an object - is brilliant. We've all fallen in love with the majesty of Karby (Kirby inhaling a car), but he can also inhale a traffic cone, a vending machine, and even stairs. They all still get a chuckle out of me. Kirby can also now canonically use a gun: we should all be scared.

Kirby having just inhaled a cone to become Cone Mouth Kirby.
Image: Nintendo

One of my main flaws with the game is that it lacks depth in some aspects. Upgrading copy abilities is fantastic, but this comes at the cost of there only being 12 base abilities. Series staples like Parasol, Beam, Spark and Throw are gone. The new Drill ability could have just been the cooler Animal from Kirby: Mouse Attack. Other cool abilities like UFO, Ghost, Cupid, Ninja and Artist would have been nice additions too. Some were removed for being redundant, which is understandable, but lots of abilities is the appeal of the series to me. Mouthful Mode doesn't quite cut it as a replacement.

a sequel that expands on all of the good aspects of Kirby and the Forgotten Land could possibly be one of my favourite games of all time

Another very small issue is that I don't really like the designs of some returning characters. Narratively, I kind of get why they happened (although they don't fit in with the characters they're meant to be working with, making it pointless), but it means that my favourite character from the series is done dirty. In the case of that character, they also revert to a more Kirby 64-esque design, which I didn't like. Said character does have a phenomenal moment in the story though, one of the highlights of the game for me.

For a jump to 3D, Kirby absolutely sticks the landing. Despite some lacking content from its predecessors, everything that is there is done to an exceptionally high standard. I would put this up there with Super Mario 3D World, Sonic Heroes and Ratchet and Clank 3 as one of my favourite 3D platformers. A sequel that expands on all of the good aspects of Kirby and the Forgotten Land has the potential to be one of my favourite games of all time. In the meantime, Kirby's Dream Course 2 would be nice, Nintendo.

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