Kirby and the Forgotten Land surprised me more times than I can count, and I mean that in the best sense. From the wonderfully weird Mouthful Mode that brings new dimension to the platforming, to the more open areas with so much to discover and see, it's hard not to think about just how far the loveable pink puffball has come. The platforming might not be quite as open comparatively to something like, say, Super Mario Odyssey, but it's still such a big leap forward for a series that has never really strayed away from the side-scrolling format.
Release date: March 25, 2022
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Developer: HAL Laboratory
The mysterious 3D world looks fantastic, too, and it's a joy to soak in all the sights as I make my way from one area to the next. With its many creative levels that pop with color and vibrancy to the copy ability upgrades and features in Waddle Dee Town, practically everything feels like it's there to put a smile on your face. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is such a ray of sunshine, and the best praise I can give it is that it's far exceeded my expectations as a longtime fan of Kirby.
To the rescue
Kirby and the Forgotten Land still has all the classic ingredients of Kirby games past. The pink hero's copy abilities, for example, are a core part of the adventure, and there's a world map hub where you go from one area to the next. But even the most familiar features have been expanded upon in some way. The world itself is pretty sizable, with it being split up into various connected areas with several different stages in each location. Of course, the biggest difference is just how open each level is.
While there's still some linearity to it, you're free to explore as you wish to discover all of the many secrets tucked away. Each and every level also feels distinctly different, with creative and inventive designs that make the most of Kirby's first proper jump into the realm of 3D. From a fairground with colorful rides to an abandoned, frozen metro station and a water-filled stage with sandy beaches, Forgotten Land takes you to a setting you'll want to be in and discover for yourself.
The general gist of Kirby's adventure revolves around saving Waddle Dees who have been captured by the Beast Pack, the main antagonists of Forgotten Land. Joined by an adorable companion known as Elfilin who accompanies you as a guide, you set about clearing each stage in an area. While you'll rescue Waddle Dees by completing a level, every stage also has a set amount of side missions to accomplish to save more. Since these missions are initially hidden, I find that they encourage me to take the time to really appreciate each stage and search every inch. All of the objectives show off the creativity of the levels and make the most of the different locations. There's definitely an additional challenge in working out what the side objectives are - I can't resist jumping right back into a stage if I miss any the first time around.
The levels get progressively more challenging throughout, with you facing various enemies and obstacles with your copy abilities. Kirby has everything from the classic elemental powers such as Ice and Fire to the newly introduced Ranger power that lets you fire a little star-powered gun. But when it comes to Kirby's skillset, Mouthful Mode is undoubtedly one of the best additions in Kirby and the Forgotten Land. I don't know how many times I found myself joyfully yelling in sheer disbelief when a new mouthful moment came along. I've become a lightbulb, a cone, a vending machine, and even a very large water-filled balloon, and each one is put to use in different ways to progress. Mouthful Mode really does bring some added flavor and excitement to the platforming, and I never tire of using it.
Battling the Beast bosses
Outside of the main stages, each area on the world map features side Treasure Road activities that challenge you to use Kirby's copy abilities and the Mouthful Mode skills to complete timed trails. Each one has a difficulty star rating and some can be particularly tricky, but they're a great way of showcasing what you can do with Kirby's repertoire. But as the antagonists of the adventure, the beast pack bosses present Kirby with his biggest challenge.
Throughout the levels, you'll occasionally come across mini-bosses with different powers that you'll have to take on in a cordoned-off area before you can progress. Once you've completed all of the stages in an area, you'll then face one of the Beast Pack bosses. Each one has different attack patterns which will change up as their health depletes, but the challenge of these battles doesn't begin and end with beating them. Just like the other stages, there are hidden missions attached to these fights that present you with additional challenges to save more Waddle Dees. It's up to you to discover what they are as you fight them, and it once again makes you want to dive right back in and take them on again.
The boss fights can be quite the spectacle, with all of them towering over the little puffball in their own uniquely designed arena. If you do find one particularly challenging, there are handily two different difficulty settings in Kirby and the Forgotten Land that you can change up at any time. Overall, these fights are always fun to take on, and it gives you the chance to experiment with the copy abilities and make the most of the upgrades you discover to best them.
If you want someone to lend a hand, a pal can also join you to take on the stages in local co-op mode. One player takes control of Kirby, while the other plays as the pink hero's good friend, Bandana Waddle Dee. Having the option for co-op is certainly welcome, but with the introduction of Mouthful Mode, there are times when Bandana Waddle Dee will just have to wait it out while Kirby uses this new skill to clear a path or navigate through a section. Since Kirby has a variety of different powers to play around with, it can often feel like the second player is just along for the ride without having any special abilities. Having said that, I can see how this would work well for younger players who want to join in on the fun with older members of the family.
As you save more Waddle Dees, you'll begin to build up Waddle Dee Town which serves as your home base. With various facilities to unlock, the little town is easily my favorite part of Kirby and the Forgotten Land. Not only does it provide you with a place to take a breather in between your platforming adventures, but it also offers up so many features that fill my Kirby-loving heart with so much joy. There's a useful shop that sells supplies to give you buffs and more health, a cafe storefront where you can buy an adorable Kirby car cake or burger, and a cinema where you can rewatch scenes. You even have your own house, where Kirby can sleep to heal.
Outside of completing the main stages and side challenges, there are also plenty of other things to work towards. Adorable mini capsule figures, for example, can be collected by finding them in stages or buying them from the local gacha-style machines nearby. All of the figures have humorous descriptions that give you more insight into Kirby's foes, the world, and his copy abilities. The figures are a bit like small trophies, with different rarity levels that are shown with stars displayed on their stands. Since you get them at random, it's always exciting to see what figure I've added to my collection each time.
The local Waddle Dee weapon shop is another excellent feature that allows you to upgrade your copy abilities to make them more powerful. By finding blueprints in the stages, you can spend stones earned from treasure road challenges to give them a boost. This also makes the design of the copy ability more impressive, and it's always a treat to see what Kirby looks like when he adopts a new form. All these features bring added depth to the adventure, and there's a satisfying sense of progression to building up the town and upgrading your abilities.
Mini-games are really just the icing on the cake, with the likes of fishing that sees you hit the right button when it appears, a Tilt-and-Roll Kirby puzzle that uses the Joy-Cons' in-built gyroscope controls, and a cafe game where you have to quickly serve up the right dish. As an added bonus, all of these side activities can be played solo or with two players. If I'm ever having a bad day, I can already see myself loading up Kirby and the Forgotten Land just for Waddle Dee Town. Waving at the residents is a great way to get some serotonin, and there are so many wonderful little touches that make this home base feel so special.
The way Kirby and the Forgotten builds on the traditions of the series really makes it feel like we've entered into a new era for the pink puffball. The bigger, more open 3D setting full of challenges and inventive features makes this an unmissable adventure for long-time fans. And for newcomers, I can't think of a better introduction. There's just no holding back my excitement about what the future may hold for the series going forward. Kirby and the Forgotten Land truly is a delight from start to finish.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land was reviewed on Nintendo Switch OLED with a code provided by the publisher.