Game Review: Kirby and the Forgotten Land (Nintendo Switch)

Of all the Nintendo properties, the one that just never resonated with me growing up was Kirby. I played only a handful of the pink blob’s adventures and occasionally chose him as a character in Smash Bros.

So, it came as something of a surprise to find out that Kirby and the Forgotten Land is the first proper fully three-dimensional game in the series. What was even more surprising is how much I loved it.

An endearing and entertaining play aimed at a more casual audience, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a delightful 3D adventure with tons of replay value.

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The story sees Kirby and his Waddle Dee friends being sucked through a rift in space that appears in the sky above Planet Popstar.

Kirby awakens on the beach and finds himself in a kind of ‘dystopian future’, where humanity is extinct and the nature is reclaiming the world. This place is known as the ‘Forgotten Land’ and seems to be abandoned, until Kirby meets the Beast Pack, who have started kidnapping the Waddle Dees sucked through the rift.

After meeting a mysterious blue creature named Elfilin, Kirby sets off to rescue the Waddle Dees and defeat the Beast Pack. It’s a simple story that has some surprising twists and turns along the way. Old friends, old enemies and an all-consuming power will be revealed.

Drawing comparisons to the likes of Super Mario 3D World and Bowser’s Fury (games I absolutely adored), Kirby and the Forgotten Land’s levels are linear with a camera that focuses you on the path always ahead. It might sound restrictive but it really allows you to enjoy the gameplay, instead of being forced to search every corner of an open-world.

Though, that’s not to suggest levels aren’t packed with secrets, as they are. Here, it pays to wander a little off the path, as much as the game will allow you.

So, what’s the goal? To rescue Waddle Dees in each level. Rescue enough in a themed world and you can unlock the boss battle before moving on to the next world.

Each level comes with a set list of five missions and completing them all will see more Waddle Dee’s rescued. While most of the missions are straight-forward enough, some require a bit more work giving Kirby and the Forgotten Land some extra challenge and replay value.

Alongside that, as you progress more tears in space will appear, giving the player a ton of side-missions to complete. Here, you are tasked with completing challenging and themed platforming mini-games in a set amount of time. Often some of the more challenging aspects of the game but also some of the most fun moments. Completing these has a purpose too as you’ll earn materials to upgrade your weapons.

Speaking of which… what is Kirby famous for? Swallowing everything in its path and that’s no different here. The pink blob can suck up almost everything and then spit it back at enemies. Though it’s the copy abilities that most will find themselves using. Worn as hats, these allows Kirby to shoot fire, ice, wield a hammer, sword, chakrams and more. Abilities that can be upgraded, making your progression feel exactly like progression.

Each ability has its benefits and drawbacks but the game regularly themes parts of levels around a specific ability forcing you to be versatile. Especially if you’re looking to get every single Waddle Dee.

A wide array of imaginative enemies gives Kirby plenty of fighting opportunities and combat is always fun. Not exactly challenging, although some of the latter bosses can be.

It’s not just platforming and combat that needs to be overcome to 100% a level though. There are puzzles and often themed around ‘Mouthful Mode’. A hilarious portion of the game that sees Kirby stretch his mouth around bizarre items, taking on that shape. You’ll be able to race as a car, get to higher plateaus with a set of stairs, shoot cans out of your slot as a vending machine and so on.

These moments are briefly smattered around levels which helps to keep them fresh and interesting.

Need a break from kicking the butts of the Beast Pack or just want to spend some coins on upgrading your latest weapons? Head back to Waddle Dee Town, effectively the game’s main hub. Here, all the Waddle Dee’s you have rescued will gather and turn it into a bustling, lively hub of activity. What starts off as a basic town square with an upgrade shop will eventually have a house for Kirby to sleep in, a fishing area, a battle arena, mini-game stores, a cinema for checking out cutscenes from previously played levels and plenty more. It’s a peaceful place to relax in that shows rescuing all those Waddle Dee’s pays off.

So, the gameplay is excellent. How about the visuals and music?

Two more areas nailed as the bright and colourful world is stunning to look at. Not only that, the level designs are varied and filled with more environmental detail than you would expect. The idea of setting this in a dystopian world was an interesting one but it really pays off. The levels set in and around the abandoned carnival or mall might be some of the best overall. The same goes for the music, catchy and playful tunes that convey the moments perfectly, while also fitting the theme of the levels perfectly.

It also plays brilliantly, suffering almost no performance issues (a handful of lag moments but barely notable) in both docked and handheld modes.

So, what doesn’t quite work? Very little to be honest.

A handful of levels feel a bit ‘cut and paste’, more so in the post-game segment and the same mini-bosses are recycled a bit too much. That’s about it though. Kirby and the Forgotten Land really is that good.

The main campaign can be wrapped up in around 7-8 hours but that will not put you anywhere near the 100% completion. There is a post-game surprise that adds on another hour or two and features some of the most challenging levels yet. Tons of side missions, collectibles, activities and mini-games to work through. Kirby and the Forgotten Land gives you bang for your buck.

As a first full Kirby 3D experience, it’s a resounding success.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land (Nintendo Switch)
  • The Final Score - 8.5/10
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