Kirby's Return to Dream Land Review
Last year, Kirby's Epic Yarn completely blew my mind. The game wasn't difficult, but it used this lack of toughness to provide a seemless experience that encouraged constant exploration, and it just dripped with pure charm. Personally, I didn't think a future Kirby title could top it. The pink puffball returned to the DS last month in Kirby Mass Attack, providing an experimental romp that once again treaded new ground for the series. It wasn't as amazing as Epic Yarn, but it sure as heck came close. Now we have Kirby's Return to Dream Land, and "return" certainly seems like a fitting word for the game's title, because developer HAL Laboratory has definitely taken Kirby back to his roots, and it has done so in a big way.
Kirby's Return to Dream Land opens with a pretty cutscene, and we find out that Kirby, Meta Knight, King Dedede, and a random Waddle Dee have decided to help an alien that has crash landed on the Planet Pop Star. The gang must seek out the missing parts of the alien's ship in order to help rebuild it. The storytelling isn't all that deep, and because this game harks back to the old school fundamentals of the platformer genre, that isn't a problem at all. All you need to know is that you're helping some dude because you're Kirby, and Kirby's an awesome guy like that.
If you've played some of Kirby's older endeavors, you'll be familiar with the formula here. Kirby's Return to Dream Land isn't an experimental product like Epic Yarn or Kirby Mass Attack. No, this is old school Kirby in full force. Levels are littered with all types of enemies. There are collectible items that you can seek out if you so choose to. Kirby can use his Copy Ability once again, and there's tons of color--literally everywhere. This is the Kirby series as we remember it, except for one thing: it's even more freaking awesome than before.
You roam around 2D levels, beating up baddies, and you do so mostly by stealing their moves. Kirby's got a ton of attacks in his arsenal. You'll remember the Sword, Fire, Cutter, and Rock attacks, as well as a bevy of other classic Copy Abilities. There are also some new moves for Kirby to utilize such as Whip and Spear. It is your job to master these moves and use them to take out enemies as well as open up paths that lead to collectibles. The latter is entirely optional, though, but it provides something to sink more time into, all the while exploring the colorful worlds of Kirby's Return to Dream Land.
In addition to the standard Copy Abilities, there are also Super Abilities. You can find enemies that wield these mighty moves in certain areas in the game, and once Kirby sucks them up, he's granted suped up versions of other Copy Abilities. The Ultra Sword, for example, is a giant blade that slashes away almost all enemies on the screen, as well as obstacles. Monster Flame summons a fiery beast that cuts across the stage, burning your foes to a crisp. As for the Grand Hammer, well, it's just a gigantic clobbering tool that can break barriers, smash bad guys, and, obviously, hit switches. These are just a few of the power-ups found in Kirby's Return to Dream Land, and to reveal any more here would definitely spoil the fun in discovering them for yourself, so I'll just shut up about it and let you stumble upon Kirby's awesome arsenal of abilities.
It would have been easy for HAL to just toss some old and new Copy Abilities into Kirby's Return to Dream Land and call it a day, but the fact of the matter is that there was obvious care put into each of Kirby's attacks. All of them feel unique, work well, require some mastery, and are a whole lot of fun to experiement with. It's rewarding discovering the many moves that Kirby can steal from his enemies, and putting them to use adds to the fun. In additon to these power-ups, there are also special disposable items that Kirby can use such as a projectile launcher, and even an item that harks back to Super Mario Bros. 3, which is just an amazing and awesome addition to this already impressive and great game. I've long believed that the Kirby series has some of the best power-ups in gaming, and Kirby's Return to Dream Land further proves that.
It's not all power-ups, though. The Kirby series has also been known to provide a platforming experience that may not exactly be tough-as-nails, but certainly is enthralling. The level design in Kirby's Return to Dream Land is, for all intents and purposes, simply brilliant. Not only are the game's jolly levels designed ever so intricately, but they reward you for exploring, and there are a myriad secrets to unravel as you quest through Pop Star. The levels are accessible, and they're so inviting that you'll want to keep playing just to see what's next. While simply getting from point A to point B isn't all that daunting, seeking out the game's rare pick-ups provides you with a significant challenge in each of the lengthy stages.
While exploring the amazingly designed worlds in Kirby's Return to Dream Land, you're treated to a rich visual design that's heavy with bright colors and cheery art design. HAL did an excellent job with the game by providing some of the best graphics on the Wii. Seriously, this is what a Wii game should look like. Everything in Kirby's Return to Dream Land is smooth, colorful, and stylish. Not to mention, everything in the game is absolutely adorable. Even the enemies look cuddly and huggable! Also, the game's backgrounds are a true testament to the efforts of the developer. Why more Wii games don't look like this is beyond me.
Accompanying the beautiful graphical design is a nice soundtrack of themes that just exude that Kirby vibe. You'll hear modern remakes of classic tunes as well as new songs altogether. Whether you're floating through the clouds while listening to some serene music or taking on a boss with a sped-up track playing on in the background, the soundtrack in Kirby's Return to Dream Land delivers the right sound for every level. Personally, Epic Yarn still holds the title of best Kirby soundtrack, but Kirby's Return to Dream Land is most certainly worthy of praise.
Getting through Kirby's latest adventure will take you roughly seven hours. If you decide to seek out the game's hidden items and unlockables, you're bound to spend more time as you visit stages multiple times. You can also play some bonus mini-games, though these aren't as fun as the ones in Kirby Mass Attack. There are also some challenge levels that task you with getting to the goal with a predetermined power-up before time runs out. These are all fun, little distractions, but the extra that adds the most to Kirby's Return to Dream Land is the four-player co-op. This mode is entirely optional, but it adds a great dynamic to the game for those who want to get together with a friend or group of friends and tackle the game's wonderful stages cohesively.
Kirby's Return to Dream Land is a special game. It looks great, sounds great, and most importantly, it plays great. The game may not be intense levels of hard, but it's a fun and practically flawless platforming experience all the way through. And the added objective of finding everything the game has to offer is there for those who want the challenge. The only real problem I have with Kirby's Return to Dream Land is that there isn't more of it. After getting through the game's beautiful levels, I really wanted more. Like, a lot more. HAL has crafted a truly wonderful experience here--it's an experience that's so adorable, charming, and addictive that it'll constantly put a goofy smile on your face. Kirby's Return to Dream Land is good, clean fun; it's excellence in artistry; and it's an amazing gaming experience that should not be missed.