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Review

Kirby And The Forgotten Land Review

Kirby Eat World

You have to hand it to Kirby, for a nearly-featureless pink puffball the little guy’s got charm in spades. He’s a lovable, good-natured foodie who’s also braver than he appears and possesses the uncanny ability to copy his foes’ appearance and abilities. Kirby’s been on a ton of adventures in his 30-year history, some memorable and some largely considered missteps, but that same charm has remained. Kirby and the Forgotten Land doesn’t just carry on that legacy, it pushes it to all-new heights and depths.

It’s been a long time coming but a proper 3D Kirby game is something fans have been clamoring for, especially so with the series’ more recent side scrolling outings falling somewhat flat. I’ll admit some slight initial disappointment that Kirby’s first big 3D adventure is less Odyssey and more 3D World than the game’s early marketing might have made me believe, but the blame for that rests squarely with me. This is still very much a game in the vein of the series’ 2D platformers in terms of structure and level progression, but the important thing is that those levels are a ton of fun.

It all starts with a very brief story set-up that finds Kirby, along with huge chunks of his home of Planet Popstar and its Waddle Dee citizens, swallowed up into a mysterious vortex and unceremoniously spat out in The Forgotten Land. In this strange world of abandoned civilisation being taken over by nature, Kirby discovers that the Waddle Dees have been kidnapped by a gang called the Beast Pack and sets off to rescue them along with a mysterious and adorable new friend named Elfilin. It’s a simple enough setup that’s typical to these games but series fans know there’s actually quite a bit of depth to Kirby lore and, without spoiling anything, Kirby and the Forgotten Land doesn’t disappoint in escalating things to a ridiculous degree by the time its conclusion comes around.

To get to that point, six distinctly themed worlds must be conquered with a handful of platforming levels and a boss fight against a member of the Beast Pack in each. If you’ve played a Kirby game before, you get the (sometimes literal) drill. What’s important is these games live or die by the quality of their level designs and it’s here that The Forgotten Land doesn’t disappoint. While the first couple of worlds feel a bit tame, especially after the game’s glorious opening tutorial sequence, it’s all up from there and the back half of the game contains some of the most memorable stages in the franchise’s history.

A big part of this is down to the obvious change in perspective that gives each level new layers of complexity and new ways to surprise players, both in terms of gameplay and visual spectacle. This is easily one of the best looking Nintendo platformers to date with lush and lovingly-crafted environments that often possess an incredible sense of scale. Any reservations about the lack of camera control quickly dissipate when the attention to framing in every moment of every level becomes clear. The ‘hero shot’ that opens just about every new stage, a low angle that contrasts the tiny Kirby against the scale of the challenge he’s about to surmount, never failed to get me pumped. Some might be disappointed to hear that the game only runs at 30fps, but it never asks so much of your reflexes that it becomes a problem. Also, being a Kirby game, the music consistently slaps.

Kirby’s trademark Copy abilities will be recognisable to fans with the usual staples present and accounted for like Fire, Bomb, Cutter and Hammer. A couple of new additions like the gun-toting Ranger and Drill make good use of the 3D space and all of them can be upgraded with two extra powered-up forms. Like previous Kirby games most of the puzzles and hidden secrets rely on having the right ability on hand, and the game generally places the necessary enemy for Kirby to shove into his gob to get there. Where the franchise’s side scrolling entries were starting to feel a little too much like they were playing themselves though, The Forgotten Land at least manages to throw some more engaging situations your way.

Of course there’s a conspicuously smooth, pink elephant in the room with Kirby’s face on it and that’s the new Mouthful Mode. Yes, the feature that had the internet (and Kirby) absolutely gagging. At set points in levels, our hero will occasionally find himself able to engulf large objects to take on their form in order to get around or solve puzzles. You’ve seen the very popular and adorable Car Mouth and probably others like Cone Mouth and Vending Mouth but there are quite a few other surprises in store.

These bits don’t really stray too far from the Kirby formula of giving you the right ability at the right time, in fact most of the time there’s just a single solution involving Mouthful Mode, but each provides a nice change in pace. Whether you’re fanging it around roads as a car, shooting cans of soft drink at destructible objects or flying through the sky on a kite (as a kite? Around a kite?) it’s always a lot of fun and always hilarious to witness. Some of my favourite levels designs in the game are a direct result of Mouthful Mode sections, like navigating a creepy haunted amusement park as a walking light bulb or a strange and hopefully-intentional homage to Junji Ito where you need to keep eating differently-shaped things to fit into holes in walls.

Outside of the main levels there’s a heap to do in The Forgotten Land as well. Between playing tough time trials based on Kirby’s Copy Abilities to earn upgrade materials and rebuilding Waddle Dee Town to open up minigames like fishing and a combat arena there’s plenty to sink your teeth into. There’s a hefty post-game too, which I can’t spoil here but should satisfy anyone looking for a meatier challenge. I spent around a dozen hours playing through the main story content and saving every Waddle Dee and still have plenty of reasons to go back (I need to finish my collection of random gashapon-style toys!).

Final Thoughts

Despite not really breaking any ground, and with a couple of minor grievances, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a wonderful outing for the pink puffball and a major high point for the series. At very few points over the course of the game did I not have a massive grin on my face, especially wherever Mouthful Mode is concerned. What could Kirby possibly eat next now that he’s thoroughly consumed my heart?

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch // Review code supplied by publisher

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Kirby And The Forgotten Land Review
More Than A Mouthful
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is the franchise's best platformer yet. With memorable levels, tons of content and gorgeous visuals it's a great package and one that'll satisfy all skill levels.
The Good
Gorgeous visuals with great use of scale
Some stellar level designs
Mouthful Mode is a riot
Incredible music
Good amount of content with a mix of challenge
The Bad
30fps performance is a little disappointing
Some will still find it far too easy
9
Bloody Ripper
  • HAL Laboratory
  • Nintendo
  • Nintendo Switch
  • March 25, 2022

Kirby And The Forgotten Land Review
More Than A Mouthful
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is the franchise's best platformer yet. With memorable levels, tons of content and gorgeous visuals it's a great package and one that'll satisfy all skill levels.
The Good
Gorgeous visuals with great use of scale
Some stellar level designs
Mouthful Mode is a riot
Incredible music
Good amount of content with a mix of challenge
The Bad
30fps performance is a little disappointing
Some will still find it far too easy
9
Bloody Ripper
Written By

Kieron's been gaming ever since he could first speak the words "Blast Processing" and hasn't lost his love for platformers and JRPGs since. A connoisseur of avant-garde indie experiences and underground cult classics, Kieron is a devout worshipper at the churches of Double Fine and Annapurna Interactive, to drop just a couple of names.

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