Kirby and the Forgotten Land takes full advantage of its new 3D environment, showing off impressive set-pieces and using clever cinematic camera shots to give the world a sense of scale not found in previous Kirby games. After Kirby and the denizens of Dream Land are transported to a new world, Kirby washes up on a beach in a manner not unlike Crash Bandicoot, and then players are set loose to see what this new take on Kirby is all about.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a 3D platformer, but it maintains a strict linear structure. Players aren't exploring large open environments like Super Mario 64, but the levels themselves are full of secrets and hidden paths for players to discover. It's a little disappointing that HAL Laboratory and Nintendo didn't go all-out with the jump to 3D, but what's here is still very impressive and feels like a major leap forward for the franchise.
In the transition to 3D, Kirby retains all the usual tricks that fans have become accustomed to in his other adventures, including his ability to float and consume enemies to absorb their powers. Kirby and the Forgotten Land levels are often populated with a nice selection of different enemies for Kirby to absorb, so players are able to swap between different copy abilities regularly. Of course, there are levels designed with specific copy abilities in mind, though usually players have a lot of freedom when it comes to what powers they're using.
Kirby's rogues' gallery looks tremendous in Kirby and the Forgotten Land, with the developers giving everyone more animations and personality. The new enemy designs are fun and clever, especially the boss battles, which are a highlight of the experience. Each world is capped off with a boss fight against a member of the Beast Pack, the antagonist group that Kirby has to contend with in Kirby and the Forgotten Land, and while there are some riffs on past Kirby bosses, there are still plenty of unique designs, too.
HAL Laboratory went the extra mile with Kirby and the Forgotten Land's art design. A great deal of care went into not only crafting the characters, but the levels as well, with plenty of creative stages that are more than simply generic fire, water, forest, etc. platformer stages. Kirby and the Forgotten Land takes these clichés and blends them with post-apocalyptic settings to create an interesting vibe all its own, with players exploring overgrown malls, abandoned industrial areas, and more.
There isn't a bad level in Kirby and the Forgotten Land. Each stage gives players something new to do, with HAL Laboratory getting especially creative when incorporating the new Mouthful Mode in the levels. Kirby and the Forgotten Land's Mouthful Mode is one of the more interesting new gameplay features, as it allows Kirby to not only consume his enemies, but large, inanimate objects as well, taking the shape of them in the process.
Kirby is able to take the form of a vending machine, a "plane," a car, and more throughout the course of the adventure, but each time an ability is brought back, players are doing something a little different with it. For example, one level may have players use Kirby's car form to simply blast through enemies and destructible walls, while another level may have the Kirby car racing on an actual track, trying to beat a high score to save a Waddle Dee.
The main goal in Kirby and the Forgotten Land is to save all the Waddle Dees that have been captured by the Beast Pack. Players can save a lot of the Waddle Dees in Kirby and the Forgotten Land by simply progressing through the stage as normal, but there are many hidden ones to find, too. Some of these hidden Waddle Dees are literally hidden in the game world, but others can only be obtained by completing bonus objectives.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land players need to save a certain number of Waddle Dees to unlock the boss level in each stage, but there's another reason to save them as well. Saving Waddle Dees expands Waddle Dee Town, which serves as Kirby's headquarters between stages. Here, players can unlock all kinds of things to do, like a cooking mini-game, a battle arena, a movie theater to re-watch cutscenes (the cut-scenes are amusing enough that one might actually be tempted to do this for a change), and more. Kirby can even fish in Waddle Dee Town once players have progressed far enough.
One of the most useful buildings in Waddle Dee Town is the Weapons Shop, which players can visit to evolve their copy abilities, giving them new, more powerful forms and increasing their damage output in the process. This gives the many coins Kirby collects in the levels a greater purpose, not to mention it's fun to see what new form each copy ability takes. The Weapons Shop in Kirby and the Forgotten Land requires blueprints and a special currency in addition to the usual coins, with players unlocking this currency by taking on the bonus Treasure stages in each world.
While Kirby is saving Waddle Dees, expanding Waddle Dee Town, and fighting against the Beast Pack, he can bring a friend along for the ride. Kirby and the Forgotten Land has a co-op mode for up to two players, with the second player taking control of Bandana Waddle Dee. Bandana Waddle Dee does not have Kirby's copy abilities, but he's still fun enough to play as thanks to his relatively strong spear attacks.
Solo or co-op, Kirby fans will have a blast with Kirby and the Forgotten Land, but it does have a couple downsides. For one, the game can be completed fairly quickly, with most players likely able to finish up the main story in less than eight hours. Getting 100% will then likely only take another five to eight hours depending on skill level, so players will be able to get through the game in such a short amount of time that it's hard to say if its $60 price tag is justified.
It doesn't help that Kirby and the Forgotten Land is such an easy game. Unless players go out of their way to do so, there's a good chance they'll never die a single time from start to finish. Now, being extremely easy isn't inherently a bad thing; sometimes it's nice to have a more relaxing gameplay experience as opposed to the multitude of nail-biting platformers out there. However, Kirby and the Forgotten Land includes difficulty options, with a "Wild Mode" that's supposedly meant to give players a greater challenge. Wild Mode doesn't really accomplish what it sets out to do, so it makes one wonder why difficulty options were provided to begin with. Not to mention players can make the game even easier by bringing along stock healing items and playing in co-op, so the game never really has any stakes.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land being a super easy game is to be expected as a low difficulty is really one of the Kirby franchise's defining traits, but that, combined with how short it is, may leave some fans feeling somewhat unsatisfied. However, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a consistently entertaining, adorable, and clever little 3D platformer while it lasts, and it even has some surprising Kirby lore revelations thrown in for good measure. Despite its short length, Kirby and the Forgotten Land marks yet another must-play Switch exclusive, especially for fans of the franchise.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is out now, exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.