Some time ago, we reviewed Kirby’s Epic Yarn, which was decidedly not-epic for dads to play. With a no-death system and non-traditional Kirby play, it left father-fans of the franchise wanting a real Kirby experience to share with their kids.
That’s why I’m happy to announce that Kirby’s Return to Dream Land is nothing like Epic Yarn – and that’s a good thing for you dads. As well, kids (let’s say kindergarten to tweens) will get more of a kick out of the risk-vs-reward gameplay moreso than the all-rewards gameplay of Epic Yarn. There’s not too much risk, but I’m pleased to report that you CAN die in Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, but a little saddened to report that you might not ever taste that bitter death because the game’s so easy. More on that later.
Surprisingly enough, I can’t remember the last time I played a proper Kirby console game, aside from Epic Yarn – which was not a “proper” Kirby game at all. In the meantime, I’d played all sorts of handheld iterations of the franchise and enjoyed them all. Humorously enough (and I’m talkin’ gamer humor, not real, actual humor), Kirby’s Return to Dream Land was supposed to be released for the GameCube in 2005, but then got pushed back to the Wii. It was then put on hold in favor of Epic Yarn (good call, guys), yadda yadda yadda, and here we are.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land is by no means a hard game, but it’s classic Kirby franchise gameplay, which will entertain you and your little dudes and dudettes for a good amount of time, as long as you don’t power through the game on your own – and if you do, do it on your own profile, dad!
The game is laid out like most of the previous Kirby games – with an “overworld” where you move from stage to stage, and 2.5D side-scrolling stages. You, thank god, inhale enemies and take on their powers. You’ve got a lot of choices as to which powers you’d like to use to beat levels, so if you like to be sword-Kirby or fireball-Kirby, you can use them as long as the game will let you, or until you need to advance with a specific ability.
You’ll use the controller “classic” style, with it held sideways. This might not thrill younger players who love to waggle and point, but it thrills me, a guy that grew up on a D-pad and face buttons.
There are also super abilities in the game – which are generally timed and have bigger effects than the smaller stuff. For example, you can use a giant (and I mean giant) “ultra-sword” to cleave through enemies and parts of the landscape.
The story, just in case you’re one of those “what’s my motivation” types, is that a UFO has crashed on Planet Pop Star and its pieces have been scattered across the land. Since Kirby’s a hell of a guy (or gal), he’s taken it upon himself to find all of the pieces of the ship and return them to the alien. As you know, you’ll have to move through levels, collecting things (in this case, energy spheres and gears), taking on enemies’ abilities to advance. Also in this game is the ability to play multiplayer – much like New Super Mario Bros. Wii from 2009. In fact, this game is reminiscent of NSMB Wii‘s sentiment, which was taking an old franchise, keeping that core gameplay in-tact, then bumping up the graphics and adding multiplayer. It’s a fairly winning (or #winning) strategy, and one that lets fathers enjoy these games with their kids. How awesome that old Kirby fans can now sit down with their kids and play alongside them! Player 1 plays as Kirby, and at any time during the game, up to three more players can join in, playing as Meta Knight, King Dedede, Waddle Dee or a different color Kirby.
Here’s the trailer for you more visual types:
There are also mini-games, which you unlock by collecting things in-game, and are loads of fun to play, especially with little kids. A couple of them, like Ninja Dojo, Sword challenge and Bomb challenge are good distractions when you’re not in the mood to sail through the main story.
And though you probably can’t trick a teenager into this flavor of pink-plush bonding time, this game seems perfect for kids old enough to “get” using a controller, all the way up to that tricky tweens age where kids start branching off into violence and more hardcore action gaming. In the multiplayer games, players share lives. This is an odd choice – if any of players 2-4 die, they pull from the pool-of-lives, but once you run out, players 2-4 get infinite lives. Meanwhile, player 1 Kirby then becomes the weak link – if player 1 dies when the pool-of-lives is empty, players start back over at the beginning of the level.
Seems like having players join mid-game posed a problem, when considering lives. Understandably, you wouldn’t want player 1 to run through all of his lives getting through a level, then join with a second controller at the last second as a way to “continue” with more lives. That could create a round-robin that would surely open a wormhole and suck-in all surrounding life forms. And no one wants that. But here’s the thing – Kirby’s Return to Dream Land is easy. Like, way easy. Like, until the last level and final boss fight, you, the seasoned Kirby pro, will sail through the game with little effort. That’s why this is a great game for the kiddos – you can jump in as player 2 and let your spawn take the more-fun role of Kirby. Let them take point on the levels and only step in when needed, lay low, and let your kid be the hero. Then when you hit the last level and things get tough, you can take on a more active role in the gameplay. Or you can both be Kirby and tear through the game mercilessly in one sitting. Just a suggestion, you fun-mongering jerks.
The graphics in Kirby’s Return to Dream Land aren’t revolutionary – even up against other Wii games. Even – get this – up against Kirby’s Epic Yarn. While the graphics in Return to Dream Land feel like a step back from the innovatively-cute world of yarn, the graphics are bright and capable. Once you get to the later levels, more effects come out of the wordwork – you know, alien stuff and all. Same goes for the sound – the Kirby universe wasn’t built on cutting-edge, realistic sound effects and spoken dialogue, so there’s not much here to report. But that’s okay. We’re more demanding in this department than our kids, and rarely do you hear a 4 year old complain about vector graphics, jaggies, bump-mapping and repeating textures. That’s because kids are little handfuls of pure thoughts and sparkles and not spoiled meat-bags of criticism and hatred like me.
When it comes down to it, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land is a wonderful game for family time – and if your kids are aged somewhere between 4 and 12, they should enjoy the hell out of it. Like I said, if you can’t resist the urge to power through it, do it alone on your own profile. This game is great for your kid to play with friends as well. The difficulty is very easy, but there’s still a risk-vs-reward system for the kiddos, which is redeeming.
Check out some of the screenshots above and let us know in the comments if you’ve played this one yet! What do your kids think?