As I’ve got older, I’ve found I’ve got less interested in playing gritty, realistic games that are regarded as the big AAA releases. I like my gaming now to be bright and breezy, and more importantly, fun. My main gaming diet consists of anime styled JPRGs and colourful platformers, and I’m very pleased to report that Kirby and the Forgotten Land hits my current sweet spot perfectly.
The plot is pretty basic, but also slightly disturbing. Kirby and all his Waddle Dee friends are sucked though a portal in the sky that dumps them in the Forgotten Land, a place where there was obviously once a thriving civilisation, but is now in ruins. The Waddle Dees are then all kidnapped by persons unknown and you set off to rescue them. You will visit a mall, an amusement park, a beach resort and more, all are in a complete state of decay, and there is no explanation of what has happened until you reach the end of the game. For such a bright bubbly game it’s a pretty bleak premise, but makes for some interesting level design.
Kirby’s new game is his first real foray into 3D, but don’t think open world style levels, you are looking more at the Super Mario 3D World structure here, with bitesize levels that have a clearly defined path. The way these levels are constructed should serve as an object lesson for other developers in terms of pitching difficulty and challenge for all levels of gamer. It’s pretty easy to get to the end of most levels without any issues. There are even paths you can take that bypass some tricky sessions, great for younger players who just want to get from A to B with the minimum fuss. For the extra challenge, each level has 5 missions to complete. 2 are always the same, clear the level and rescue x number of Waddle Dees along the way, some of which are fiendishly hidden, but the other missions remain hidden until you either complete them in level, complete part of them in level, or get one revealed at the end of the level. This means that there is plenty to go back and do if you want to uncover every secret and every path, some of which are not easy to find.
Those familiar with Kirby games will know that his main characteristic is the ability to suck up enemies and take on their skills, such as throwing bombs, breathing fire or hitting enemies with a big hammer. Once you acquire an ability, you can equip it in the hub area, and then go hunting for blueprints in the levels that will upgrade these copy abilities. Some sections require you to use a certain ability, but you will always find a handy enemy nearby with the correct ability that you need to complete a puzzle, and if you accidentally kill that monster it will respawn, another way the game helps you along. There is also a character in the hub world that will let you know if you have missed a blueprint, which level it’s in, and may even narrow it down to a section of that level. This all means you never feel that you are missing something, the game is almost willing you on to find all of its secrets.
Kirby has a new ability as well, Mouthful Mode. Sometimes he will come across a large object, such as a car or vending machine, which he can inhale and stretch himself around, becoming that object in effect. I mention those two because they are in the trailer, I wouldn’t want to spoil any of the other objects you can become as its a complete joy when you encounter them for the first time. This new mechanic adds a lot to the game, is used to open up secret areas, and can be the centrepiece to completing some of the levels.
To upgrade your abilities, you need some items called Rare Stones, and these are obtained through completing challenge levels that appear as you play. Each one gives you a specific ability and a set of challenges to complete in a set time limit, rewarding you with a stone and some coins. These are graded by difficulty and can be handled fairly easily. For more of a challenge though, the game sets another time as a target to beat, and these can be brutally tough, but are a welcome addition to those who want to test themselves. They are purely for fun though, you only get a small amount of coins for beating the tough times, the game does not lock any upgrades or important items behind them, which is great for those who would find them too difficult.
Your base of operations is a hub world called Waddle Town, and this starts off pretty small. As you rescue more Waddle Dees though, the town expands with new buildings such as item shops, mini games and even a house for Kirby to rest in. I won’t say what the mini games are, it’s nice when they pop up as a surprise, but they can be a fun distraction. There are 4 gacha machines there too, as you can pick up gacha capsules in levels, but you can complete your collection in town. Mid way through the game a Colosseum appears where you can complete cups consisting of boss rush fights. and once the credits roll, more levels show up for you to complete, more Colosseum cups and more things to collect, there is just so much to do.
The graphics are bright and bold, Kirby can be a little awkward to control but the developers have implemented large hitboxes for enemies, and made the jump mechanic work as you almost reach the floor, as it’s pretty difficult to judge when your pink blob has truly landed. Performance is great as well, I had no issues with framerate drops that I noticed, and the world always looks stunning. There is a co-op mode which I have not tried where a second player has limited control of a Waddle Dee.
Overall this is a stunning, fun game that you can play in whatever way you want. It’s perfect for gamers of all ages and will have you smiling as you play, humming its tunes, and joining in with the song as Kirby does his little dance at the end of a level. One of the best games I have played on the Switch.
Note: I talk as someone with visual impairment and ADHD so there may be other accesibility issues that affect others in different ways. I am not underminding them, I just cannot comment on them from experience.
The unfortunate thing about Kirby and the Forgotten Land is that the are ZERO accessibility options. Nada, zilch, none! From a company the size of Nintendo it is unacceptable. To not have even basic options is inexcusable to the point I am don’t have the irge to finish the game at all.
There has been no consideration given to the size of text, the brightness, colours, backgrounds or anything. I missed many key prompts because the light text on a light background was impossible for me to read.
I also tried to play with the sound down to see if it was just an issue I would have being visually impaired and noticewd that there is a distinct lack of visual cues for the hard of hearing too. Which shocks me as I expect Nintendo games to have these little touchees.
Whilst I don’t doubt Kirby is a wonderful game as a whole, I feel there is too much stopping a portion of us from getting that same enjoyment.