Kirby and the Forgotten Land - Hands-on Preview
Everyone’s favourite spherical pink air ball turns 30 this year, and what better way to celebrate than with a new game? Kirby and the Forgotten Land is less than a month away, and thanks to Nintendo Australia we can give you a sneak peek at what you can expect from this upcoming 3D action extravaganza! We’ve all seen the trailer, we’ve all seen Mouthful Mode. But what else does this bright new game have to offer? And does Mouthful Mode remain as existentially terrifying as it is at first glance? The answers are ‘LOTS’ and ’YES, HELP’. That said, after playing through the entirety of World 1 – or ‘Natural Plains’ – for the purposes of this preview, I’m still having nothing but fun with Kirby’s latest adventure, and it’s definitely the boost we all need to bring the pure joy back after the emotional toll of this month’s other heavy hitters. Here’s why!
Mouthful Mode allows you to really take it all in
We’ll start with the big one. The trailer is above, if you haven’t seen it, but basically Kirby can inhale objects bigger than we’ve ever seen him inhale before, which makes for some cool new interactions with the world around him. Whether you’re swallowing a car and smashing through (to be fair, already crumbling) walls, sliding over a cone and harpooning your head into the ground, or becoming a vending machine that can shoot cans at your enemies, these cleverly designed moments allow you to become bigger, stronger, and more quietly terrifying than before. You can see some others in the trailer, many of which I haven’t come across yet, but even though each ‘section’ of Mouthful Mode interaction is only short, they add a lot to switching up the gameplay. They’re very cool, as long as you don’t think about them too hard. Like, how does the angle of Kirby’s vision allow him to see while he’s stretched in all these different positions? Is he like a chameleon who can see around 360 degrees? Maybe that would make sense, with all the copying he does… Anyway, speaking of the copy abilities!
Copy Abilities turn Kirby into his own worst enemies
If you’ve ever played a Kirby game, or have played as our little puffy friend in Smash Bros., you’ll know that he can inhale basically anyone, and in doing so, takes on many of their features and abilities. It’s a somehow less creepy version of wearing them as a suit, because everything that Kirby does is adorable. In this latest installment, there’s plenty of that to be had. Kirby can take on elemental abilities (like ice or fire), or wield weapons (like a pea shooter or various kinds of swords) along with a host of other neat tricks by inhaling many of his foes instead of otherwise defeating them. With lots of enemy types scattered through each level, you’ll usually be switching between abilities a lot as you go, often getting a choice of which one you want to use to tackle a particular challenge. You also keep these abilities even when entering Mouthful Mode, so Kirby can be wrapped around a car while also wearing a tiny ice crown, which is both once again adorable and also great for allowing you to hold onto your favorite abilities. As you progress through the game, you can collect blueprints that allow you to upgrade these abilities too, making them more powerful as you need them to take on tougher foes. But where can you perform these upgrades? Why, you’ll need to go to Waddle Dee Town!
Help your buddies rebuild Waddle Dee Town, and they’ll help you too!
Kirby’s main mission in Kirby and the Forgotten Land is to save his buddies the Waddle Dees, who have been kidnapped and locked up by the evil Beast Pack. As you free them by making your way through stages and completing level objectives, more and more of them will return to Waddle Dee Town to combine their efforts and rebuild their bustling town. The town is like a point of respite for Kirby, too – he can take a rest in his house, or grab some food to take on the road from the local Waddle-Dee Cafe. The town blacksmith(?) will also help you upgrade your copy abilities, and the post office (Waddle Dee-liveries) allows you to enter codes that you can find throughout the world or in online events to unlock new content. Wise Waddle Dee can tell you about any blueprints or important things you might have missed on your travels and give you general game tips and stats, or if you just want to get into that figurine collecting game, there’s a ‘Gotcha’ machine that you can play to pop out figurines to display in your house. It’s really all happening in their little town, and as the game progresses, more of it will unlock. You can also just walk around and wave to the townspeople and they’ll excitedly wave back, which is just wholesome and perfect. And speaking of Kirby’s friends..
Co-op mode brings Bandana Waddle Dee along for the ride
If you don’t want to go it alone, a second player can join in as Bandana Waddle Dee, a buddy who comes with his own set of abilities. He can’t use copy abilities like Kirby can, but he can hover and rain down spears, or shoot them from a distance, which is super useful against enemies. He and Kirby can also share health, so if one of you picks up a health item, you just need to do a sweet little high five by standing near each other and it’ll heal the other one too. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Bandana Waddle Dee can also rest with you at Kirby’s house, and sometimes he’ll sleep on the ground like a mate at a sleepover, and sometimes they’ll sort of cuddle. I cannot overstate how adorable this game is, truly.
Treasure Road encourages mastery and speed
Along with the regular levels, each world has its own set of ‘Treasure Road’ challenges that you’ll need to complete in order to earn the Rare Hearts to upgrade your abilities. That means you have to get a handle on how to use them before you can make them stronger, which seems like a fair trade. These levels, which are basically mini time trials, ask you to use the abilities in various ways to speed through a course and hopefully hit the goal in record time. Do it quick enough, and you’ll get an extra coin bonus and an extra little box check, which mostly just feels cool. The sense of accomplishment is actually enough of a reward, really.
This whole game celebrates joy and adventure
It’s been a while since a game has made me feel as much pure unadulterated wholesome joy as Kirby and the Forgotten Land has so far. It’s not groundbreaking in most of its mechanics, but it does use them in creative ways, and the two difficult modes mean there’s something here for those looking for a challenge, or those who just want to cruise on through. I can see a lot of families playing this game together, and all equally enjoying it. Just… don’t think too hard about Mouthful Mode.
If you want to check out Kirby and the Forgotten Land before its release, a free demo is available now through the Nintendo eShop! It gives you access to three levels from World 1, and gives you a chance to try a bunch of abilities for yourself. If you’re looking to add some joy to your day, I’d highly recommend it. The full game will release on Nintendo Switch on March 25th!