Kirby and the Forgotten Land looks like the game the world needs right now. Full of color and adventure, it asks you to explore every nook and cranny and get lost in a vibrant world that will make you smile and, dare I say it, laugh at the absurdity of some of the things you live. Frankly, if it wasn’t a bit lacking in ideas towards the end, I’d praise it as one of the best the genre has to offer, but regardless, I had a wonderful time every second I played the role of the titular pink sucker.
There are two ideas behind Kirby and Forgotten Land that are new to the series. First of all, yes, it’s a 3D adventure. Full camera control is missing, but that never feels like an omission. The levels are intricately designed and full of secrets that, if you had control of the camera, might make some of the more hidden paths and objects a little too easy to find.
The second new idea is “Mouthful Mode”. This allows Kirby to suck things way too big for his mouth and is the source of many moments of joy. I wouldn’t call the bite mode “used sparingly”, as such, but that’s not overkill either. Rather than entire levels revolving around this new mechanic, it’s more about using them in sections of larger levels, or as ways to find even more hidden objects.
Kirby can suck up a full car and it becomes a racing mini-game: there are even times with a timer and scoreboard to test your skills, and yes, there are shortcuts too. Kirby can suck up a cone or a vending machine, and these all have unique mechanics. One of my favorite ideas is how Kirby sucks up a circle that allows him to blow wind at enemies or fans, and he can even jump in a boat, become the “sail” and, again, find more collectibles.
You may have noticed that I mentioned secrets, hidden objects, and collectibles, and that’s because that’s a big part of what makes Kirby and the Forgotten Land so much more. Every stage is apt to burst with these trinkets. You’ll collect currency to spend on health items, battle buffs, and more, but you’ll also collect macha-style hidden items to add to your collection, and scrolls that can upgrade Kirby’s battle forms.
The forms or copy capabilities are similar to most of what’s come before, really. You can wield a sword, shoot guns as a ranger, absorb a hot-headed enemy to wield fire, and more. Each of these abilities can be upgraded by finding the scroll, and they become more powerful each time. You can always go back and select which build you want to equip when sucking in an enemy, and it’s worth noting that the game is pretty good at indicating when you should switch, often tying secrets to a certain form requirement.
Outside of the main stages, there are bonus tiers that award a currency that you must spend in conjunction with the scrolls in order to level up. This is also where some of the most devilishly difficult levels are found. These are shorter time attack missions, but some part times will make you want to pull your hair out. Luckily, you only have to complete them to get what you need, but it’s nice to have the option to come back and improve your time.
Difficulty has been one of the issues I’ve had with Kirby games in the past, but it feels much more balanced in Forgotten Land. I played in “Wild Mode” which is for older players, but there is no punishment for dropping it in the easier mode other than a small bonus you get for completing levels in wild mode. Bosses will be easier to beat and you’ll take less damage on easy mode, and the addition of optional co-op means you can ask a friend to help out if you’re still struggling. In truth, it’ll be a pretty easy game bar a few boss fights, and I think the challenge lies in mastering those optional time trials.
It’s hard not to smile as you leap and float, sucking in enemies and engaging in the (surprisingly) deep combat that some of the forms offer. There are plenty of nods to longtime fans, and each level follows the Super Mario 64 outline, meaning you can complete a stage when you get to the end, but there are optional objectives throughout. long. Whether it’s finding the hidden bonus Waddle-Dees or tearing up “Wanted!” posters of Kirby, or bringing the ducks back to their mothers, you could rush through the levels, but why would you want to?
There’s even a large hub world offering additional mini-games (some even use Gyro controls on the Switch), online giveaways, a colosseum for boss fun, a theater for watching cutscenes, and it there is even a fishing game. It’s adept at bursting with reasons to endear you to it, and it’s entirely frictionless, providing the antithesis to so many games that chase that gameplay that wants to punish you into submission until you agree to play according to her rules is the only cheeky way.
The only real negative is that it runs out of steam towards the end. While there are some really clever moments later that cleverly mix up the bite-sized mode ideas, there are a few boss fights that get repurposed and arena fights that after the second time around lose a bit of their shine. . That said, it also doesn’t overstay its welcome and feels just the right length. Rescuing Waddle Dees from hidden areas in meticulously crafted levels reminds me of post-game hunting in Super Mario Odyssey, and frankly any game that even reminds you of this masterpiece is worth considering I’d say. .
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a nice surprise. It’s an evolution for the Kirby franchise, and while it retains the fundamentals fans know and love, it adds challenge and adventure in ways the series has never seen before. It borrows heavily from its Nintendo family mascot friends, but is also an adventure in its own right that any platformer fan should experience. I didn’t think it was possible, and never thought I’d say this, but Kirby and the Forgotten Land is an essential purchase.