Kirby and the Forgotten Land is an absolute joy to play. The dozens of copy abilities keep combat engaging right to the end, while the focus on collectables and puzzles makes up for the lack of intricate platforming. The low difficulty may put off older players looking for a challenge, and it isn’t quite as ambitious as the likes of Mario and Zelda, but this is still a thoroughly enjoyable adventure that’s brimming with charm.
- Great range of copy abilities and upgrades
- Inventive puzzles thanks to Mouthful Mode
- Challenging and rewarding mini games
- Varied and gorgeous level designs
- Main missions will be too easy for some
- Not as ambitious as Mario and Zelda games
- UKRRP: £49.99
- USARRP: $59.99
- EuropeRRP: €59.99
- CanadaRRP: CA$79.96
Genre: 3D platformer in the same vein to Super Mario 3D Land.
Release date:Available from 25 March 2022.
Most Nintendo characters have already completed the transition from 2D to 3D, with the likes of Mario, Link and Donkey Kong learning 360-degree movement as far back as the N64 era.
But poor-old Kirby, Nintendo’s iconic pink puffball, has been stuck in 2D for a whopping 30 years. Fortunately, that record is coming to an end, as his latest platforming adventure takes place in a 3D world.
While comparisons have been made to Super Mario Odyssey, due to the vibrant 3D worlds and a similar ability-stealing power to Cappy, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is actually more akin to the Yoshi series thanks to the linear structure of each level.
There’s little focus on intricate platforming or challenging combat here, with Forgotten Land instead putting a greater emphasis on seeking out hidden collectables. As a result, this is a great starting point for young children looking for their very first platformer, yet it’s still a charming and enjoyable adventure for older players, even if Kirby doesn’t quite hit the same heights as Mario and Zelda. Here are my thoughts.
- Simplistic story
- Cutscenes are a joy to watch
- Children are clearly target audience
Anyone who’s played a past Kirby game should know this series isn’t exactly known for fleshed-out stories, and the same applies to Forgotten Land. There’s very little dialogue here, with Kirby’s hilariously goofy facial expressions and adorable chirps proving worthy substitutes.
The story opens with Kirby and his Waddle Dee companions being sucked up into a vortex, and then being spat out into an unfamiliar world. It’s here where the Waddle Dee are kidnapped, forcing Kirby to search the island to free his odd-looking friends.
While Nintendo hasn’t been afraid to introduce sinister villains in other games, with Bowser and Ganondorf the most obvious examples, studio HAL Laboratory has opted for less threatening antagonists for Forgotten Land, with a group of adorable foxes and blackbirds taking on the role of kidnappers instead.
Familiar faces from the Kirby universe also make an appearance later on in the game, while there are some surprisingly shocking twists towards the end. It’s all very silly and ludicrous, in typical Kirby fashion, but has a very enjoyable final third with enough action-packed cutscenes to rival a Marvel film.
And if you want a breather from the story, you’re able to chill in the hub world, which gradually expands as you rescue more Waddle Dee.
This will open up more activities, too, including a fishing and café mini-game, as well as a colosseum where you fight off multiple waves of enemy bosses in one sitting – succeed and you’ll be rewarded with a very good prize.
- Linear level design like Super Mario 3D Land
- Focus on collecting hidden collectables
- Mouthful mode features Odyssey-esque puzzles
Kirby and the Forgotten Land features a very familiar 3D platformer structure, with six different worlds to explore. You start off in a post-apocalyptic city that’s been reclaimed by nature, with flowers covering the tops of skyscrapers and trees sprouting out of roads. Later on, you’ll explore a snowy tundra, a desert land and even a theme park.
There’s a great variety of level designs here, and I was always excited to see what each had to offer, whether that involved fleeing from a boulder or riding a roller coaster. Those hoping that levels will feature an open-world format in the same vein as Super Mario Odyssey may come away disappointed; Kirby and the Forgotten Land adopts a more linear design – think Crash Bandicoot and Super Mario 3D Land.
But unlike those two games, Forgotten Land has no interest in tight, intricate platforming, with Kirby able to inflate himself and float upwards in case he does accidentally mis-time a jump. This is a far cry from Mario’s tight acrobatics that require lots of skill to master, making Kirby a very easy and forgiving character to control.
And while there is plenty of combat, with a great range of adorable enemies, there’s very little challenge. Spanking foes is still a blast though, as Kirby is able to gobble up enemies and steal their abilities. There are 12 different copy abilities available, all of which have their own mechanics and uses. The Hammer allows Kirby to deal serious damage up-close, while Ice allows you to skate across the ground and freeze enemies in a glacier.
Most of these abilities can be upgraded, too, enabling you to deal even more damage and even allow Kirby to learn additional moves. For example, upgrading the Fire ability enables Kirby to glide through the air like a dragon, while the powered-up Homing Bomb sees your explosives chase after enemy grunts before engulfing them in a fiery explosion.
I really enjoyed experimenting with these abilities, with the drip-feed of new mechanics helping to keep combat fresh throughout the campaign, while also providing a great incentive to search every nook and cranny of each level in order to discover the required blueprints.
Of course, Kirby’s huge arsenal of attacks means most enemies will pose little threat – I think I only died once outside of boss encounters during my first playthrough. And even if you do get hit, especially by those enemies that are too large to swallow, you’ll only see a small chunk of health erased from your generous health bar. If you’re craving a challenge, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
Instead, Forgotten Land puts a big emphasis on seeking out collectibles in a similar vein to the Yoshi series. Kidnapped Waddle Dee will be hidden throughout the stages, so you have to keep an eye out for secret passageways and mini-puzzles. For example, in order for Kirby to rescue an out-of-reach Waddle Dee in one stage, he must ignite a fuse and then race over to a cannon to be blasted up to a platform.
Such puzzles don’t exactly require much brain power to solve, but they encourage the player to experiment with their environment via Kirby’s various copy abilities. The new Mouthful mode transformations also allow Kirby to temporarily take the form of inanimate objects, including a car, traffic cone and staircase. It’s amusingly silly, but also allows Forgotten Land to add a couple more inventive puzzles, akin to the Cappy transformations in Super Mario Odyssey.
One of my favourite levels saw Kirby swallow a lightbulb so he could light up a gloomy cave to prevent him falling off the narrow walkways. I also enjoyed taking the form of a vending machine to fire cola cans at unsuspecting enemies, while also being handy for knocking down cracked walls to discover new locations.
With each level packed with so many secrets, there’s a big chance you’ll miss a Waddle Dee or two during your first playthrough. This incentivises the player to revisit levels to ensure they’ve discovered every single collectible each stage has to offer. And if you miss one, you’ll get hints for the next playthrough, so you’re not banging your head against the wall.
The boss level at the end of each world will also require a set number of rescued Waddle Dee in order for you to progress, so rushing through each level with the sole focus of getting to the finish line as quickly as possible isn’t an effective tactic. Still, scouring each stage for collectibles is hardly a challenge, rewarding curiosity and exploration rather than your skill with a controller.
The boss battles themselves are great fun, although are fairly easy to beat, especially if you master the dodge mechanic. But you will be able to take on even more difficult variations of these enemies later on in the game via the colosseum, which can prove challenging even if you’ve unlocked some of the most powerful copy abilities available in the game.
Forgotten Land also tries to cater to fans who want a challenge via the Treasure Road stages. These are essentially mini-games (such as hurling bombs at buttons with pinpoint accuracy), which Kirby must complete in a set time in order to be rewarded with the entire bounty. Personally, I’ve found beating these time challenges difficult, offering a far more rewarding experience than the main stages.
There’s also some excellent post-game content that ramps up the difficulty, which I’m reluctant to spoil. But even after seeing the end credits, I’m keen to jump back into Kirby and the Forgotten Land to uncover every single collectible and rescue the remaining Waddle Dee.
- Co-op mode allows up to two players
- Second player limited to Waddle Dee skillset
- Great way for parents to play with children
Once you finish the prologue, Kirby will be given the option to pair up with a friend for co-op multiplayer. A second player will take on the role of a Waddle Dee, which means you won’t be able to steal enemy abilities (which is a massive shame), but instead be able to strike enemies with a spear.
With Waddle Dee unable to complete the vast majority of puzzles due to his limited skillset, it feels more like a supporting role than an equal co-op partner.
The camera is also locked on Kirby, so if the lead player progresses too quickly, Waddle Dee will either find it difficult to see his surroundings, or be forced to teleport into the camera’s frame. That can become a little frustrating, once again emphasising that he’s simply there for support.
I think this co-op mode is a great option for parents to play alongside their children, especially if they’re stuck against a particularly challenging boss battle. But I doubt it’s a mode that more mature gamers will want to engage in when they have a friend over.
- Colourful, cartoony worlds look fantastic
- Typical top-class Nintendo polish
I was very impressed with the visuals of Kirby and the Forgotten Land when playing on the Nintendo Switch OLED. There are so many bright colours here that it feels like you’re peeking inside a nursery.
HAL Laboratory has opted for a colourful cartoon art style that will no doubt appeal to children. Each level is packed with detail, with gorgeous backdrops that are often mesmerising to view. There’s a great variety of enemy designs here, too, from floppy-eared blue rabbits to spherical baddies wearing golden armour.
Each level has been carefully crafted, with added detail that will no doubt make you smile – visit the mall, and you’ll see enemies sitting at a table with a plate-full of burgers and chips. I even had a lot of fun exploring the hub world. By pressing the D-pad you’re able to gleefully wave at the Waddle Dee, while attempting to suck them in your mouth will see them cower.
Kirby has a fantastic range of animations, too. Using the dodge mechanic will see him acrobatically cartwheel across the ground, while repeatedly inflating his body to hover in the air will eventually see him begin to sweat as he slowly falls to the floor.
Cutscenes look surprisingly fantastic – I…