author: Giancarlo Saldana
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe Review: Bigger and Friendlier
A remastered version of the 2011 Wii title, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land offers some updated graphics and a few new features, but are these enough to justify returning to the game?
The review is based on the Switch version.
Kirby’s last adventure took the pink puffball to a forgotten land and was the first game to allow him to fully roam 3D environments for a change. Kirby and the Forgotten Land was a bold step in a new direction for a series known for its colorful, happy, and accessible 2D platforming levels easy enough for gamers of all ages to enjoy.
- Classic Kirby experience with colorful levels, secrets, and lots to collect;
- Merry Magoland makes it easier to play mini-games with friends;
- Magolor Epilogue features a fun new approach to the Kirby formula.
- The usual Kirby experience we all have played already;
- Great for families or groups but it gets old quickly if you play it by yourself.
Return to Dream Land Deluxe, however, brings Kirby back to a place he’s been to before both in location but also in structure. A remake of the 2011 Wii title, this platformer features classic Kirby gameplay with a handful of new additions to make the game even bigger than the original. Bigger isn’t always better, but those looking for a quintessential Kirby experience will enjoy playing through this remastered version, even if it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.
Return to Dream Land follows the story of Kirby and his pals who set out to help a stranded space traveler named Magolor after his ship crashes onto their planet. Getting parts of his ship back requires Kirby to travel through seven different stages and fend off against enemies and bosses in order to retrieve these parts and get his new friend home. An elaborate story has never been the series’ focus, but Return to Dream Land does feature some surprises and some adorable moments the series is known for to make you cheer on the pink puffball every step of the way.
The stages you visit are also unique in their aesthetic so you will play through icy hills, underwater mazes, and other lively locales featuring plenty of enemies for you to defeat and traps to avoid. A plethora of copy abilities return including two new ones—mecha and sand—which are useful when fending off enemies and bosses, but are also key in solving puzzles that reveal new paths to explore.
If you’re new to the game, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is the version you want to play as it offers dozens of levels, tons of collectibles, and multiplayer mini-games to keep you busy. It’s great for families considering how accessible and friendly it is to new players, but it also offers some light challenges and colorful levels older fans can appreciate. It may not be a groundbreaking experience, but Deluxe is a testament the Kirby series is still as charming as ever.
Each level also contains optional “energy sphere” collectibles for you to find that unlock additional areas in Magolor’s ship such as a la carte copy abilities and challenges that test your mastery of each ability. Finding these spheres throughout each level can further add to the difficulty of each one as you will need to keep your eyes peeled or solve more complex puzzles in order to find them all. I got most of mine through a single playthrough but I had to revisit a handful of levels where I simply wasn’t fast enough or trapped myself out of these areas to get the missing spheres. It’s a great incentive to revisit certain levels, but it is a bother when you have to play through and beat an entire level again just to get to the one you missed at the very end.
Fun for Everyone
One of the draws of the original and Deluxe is that you can play the entire game with up to three friends. Dropping in and out of game is a breeze and sometimes helpful having one of your friends on standby in case you need an ability to reach a secret area. While your friends can also play as Kirby, they can also pick Meta Knight, King Dedede, or Bandana Waddle Dee, who wields a sword, hammer, or spear respectively. Playing with friends can make stages easier to complete, but the first player is always the leader so the camera follows that person at all times. This can cause players to warp to the first player’s side if they wander too far away so co-op can sometimes feel like a game of follow the leader.
If you are familiar with the series, you will know Kirby games aren’t meant to be particularly challenging. The first few levels you will visit are a breeze to get through, and it’s not until later in the game that they get tricky. Even then, you will surely have dozens of extra lives and may never see a Game Over screen due to how generous the game is at keeping you alive. Sure, some levels require you to think fast, but they are all accessible to even the youngest of gamers—so much so, in fact, that Deluxe introduces a “Helper Magolor” feature that constantly offer you recovery items and carries you across pits. This is great for younger gamers who are new to platformers or useful if you are playing with friends who may need some added assistance.
Due to their accessible nature, the levels you encounter may seem too easy but they do eventually offer areas where they introduce new elements such navigating through a dark maze with only a candle for guidance or avoiding getting squished by blocks falling down at you from above. These moments make the game feel interesting and evolving compared to series’ more usual straightforward approach of running form point A to point B. Even kids need a bit of challenge so it’s great that these areas make things more varied and challenging.
Deluxe is the exact same game that came out on the Wii, but it does come with new features and a new look. Aesthetically, the game looks more polished and features a softer cel shaded design than its predecessor. Certain textures have also received an update and the game features more details in both its environments and character models. Even King Dedede and Meta Knight have received makeovers.
Instead of waiting to get spheres to unlock mini-games, Deluxe introduces a new area called Merry Magoland where you can play all 10 of its mini-games right from the start. Playing games awards you with stamps that unlock recovery items and masks for your characters to wear here or while playing the story. This doesn’t add anything to the experience, but it offers you some incentive to keep on playing. Other nice touches include various references to past Kirby games, and you will see familiar faces make an appearance the more you play.
Among these mini-games you’ll also find Samurai Kirby 100 which is a daily online mini-game that tests your speed against 99 other players. This is the only real “online” feature as the other inclusion is a log that updates you on recent online trends and records. You get rewarded for playing mini-games against the computer, but you’ll get the most out of Magoland if you have friends around and want a minimalistic Mario Party experience on the fly.
Once you finish the story, you will also unlock a more difficult mode that starts you off with less health than normal. Considering Deluxe is a remastered version of a game that already came out years ago, it would have been better if you could play this mode from the start to give players the option of a more challenging return to Dream Land. Additionally, you also unlock a boss rush feature that lets you fight all the bosses in a row with limited health. It will keep you busy for a while but it’s nothing particularly interesting.
The real draw comes in the added Magolor Epilogue mode that lets you play as Magolor instead of Kirby. This mode can add an extra two hours or so to your seven hour adventure, and offers a unique RPG element that the series hasn’t seen before. I won’t spoil too much of what you’ll be doing in this mode, but it serves as a creative example of what new direction the series can take. You do have to beat the story to unlock it, but it’s definitely worth it.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is a return to the classic Kirby formula, but it does offer some creative updates to make it the definitive edition everyone should play. If you already played the original, however, picking up this version may not be worth it considering the small amount of updates you are getting. Sure, they extend the life of the game, but its new features only offer a little bit extra in the form of substance.
Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.
However, if you’re new to the game, Deluxe is the version you want to play as it offers dozens of levels, tons of collectibles, and multiplayer mini-games to keep you busy. It’s great for families considering how accessible and friendly it is to new players, but it also offers some light challenges and colorful levels older fans can appreciate. It may not be a groundbreaking experience, but Deluxe is a testament the Kirby series is still as charming as ever.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com