Over the past 30 years, Nintendo hero Kirby has established a reputation that goes beyond being pink, round, and swallowing anything and everything. Kirby, for the most part, is a series that can be enjoyed by just about everyone, regardless of skill.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe, an expanded remaster of a 2011 Wii game, is no different. The upcoming Nintendo Switch release may be one of Kirby’s friendliest adventures, offering a light challenge for solo players, but letting up to four people join in the fun at once. Like bumper bowling, Return to Dream Land Deluxe feels almost impossible to fail at; there are generous power-ups and health items to consume, and falling off of a stage just plops Kirby (or one of his friends) right back into the action. The Switch game feels ideal for the Nintendo Switch owner with young kids who might not have mastered a Joy-Con controller, or who might have the attention span of a fly. Dropping into a multiplayer game of Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is just as easy as dropping out. Plus, every character can carry or be carried by another player.
Just as important: Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe feels like the kind of multiplayer party chaos that will keep a kid engaged, but not at the expense of someone more skilled who just wants to unwind with some cheerful Kirby time.
I recently played Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe at a Nintendo event in New York, and had a great time playing in a chaotic side-scrolling spree with three other folks. I never got to play solo, and that’s OK. Instead, we powered through levels with sheer, four-player brute force, sucking up and spitting out bad guys, stealing their powers, spraying fireballs, and occasionally transforming into a giant rolling snowball of death (with cute Kirby eyes!). Every moment felt like barely contained chaos — Waddle Dee, Meta Knight, and Kirbys of various colors were darting all over the screen, eating and blowing everything up.
As previously mentioned, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is an updated version of an older game. Content-wise, it appears largely the same as its Wii progeny. But Kirby does have a few new Copy Abilities — his longtime power-stealing, uh, powers — to freshen things up. A new Sand ability lets Kirby throw blasts of sand, hide in a protective layer of sand, and even summon a deadly sandcastle. The Mecha ability makes Kirby look like he swallowed a Gundam, and lets him lob fireballs, shoot out a thick laser blast, and fly with a jetpack.
Players can also try out new minigames (or as Kirby makers call them, subgames). I tried a target-shooting game called Kirby on the Draw using the Joy-Con like a laser pointer, knocking down targets and aiming for high scores. Return to Dream Land Deluxe has plenty of carnival game-style distractions on hand at Merry Magoland, in case anyone grows bored with the main story mode.
The most intriguing addition in Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is a brand-new unlockable post-game mode called the Magolor Epilogue. Starring the alien visitor from the game’s main story, the playable epilogue lets up to four players assume control of Magolor as he attempts to restore his lost powers. Magolor Epilogue adds a sense of progression to the Kirby formula, letting players power up Magolor over more than 20 levels. Like the family-friendly nature of the main story, the epilogue feels inherently playable by a wide range of skill levels, and a great introduction to RPG-like character advancement in easily digestible form.
You really can’t go wrong with Kirby. And Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is another opportunity to relive one of the pink puff ball’s better adventures. The game is headed to Nintendo Switch on Feb. 24. A playable demo is available now on the Switch eShop.