Game of the Month: Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe

PUBLISHER HAL Laboratory, Vanpool
RELEASE DATE 02.24.2023

As befits his cuddly design and voracious appetite, Kirby’s games have always felt a bit like playable comfort food. Whereas many classic and modern platformers are all about punishing you if you miss a single jump, Kirby can float through the air as much as he wants by puffing himself up like a balloon, making those bottomless pits much less of a danger. And while someone like Mario can only take a hit or two from an enemy before losing a life, Kirby is bursting with ample hit points and levels are full of healing items, meaning there’s always plenty of room for error. Playing a Kirby game isn’t about putting your skills to the test. It’s about exploring charming worlds and experimenting to find the right way forward.

Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe, a Nintendo Switch remaster of a 2011 Wii title, is certainly no exception to the rule. While some of the stages in the back half of the game do offer up a bit of challenge, all but the youngest players will likely have amassed so many dozens of lives that they won’t be in any real danger of getting a game over screen. The fun here is in solving the minor puzzles throughout each level, especially the cleverer ones that make good use of Kirby’s copy abilities—where he sucks up enemies in his mondo mouth to absorb their various powers.

On that front, the Deluxe version of Return to Dreamland does add a few new options to the mix. Alongside the nearly 30 copy abilities from the original, the remaster introduces two brand-new ones: Mecha, which gives Kirby a mech suit with jet-thrusters and beam weapons, and Sand, which lets him attack with whirlwinds of… well, you can probably figure that one out yourself.

In addition to these improvements to the original gameplay, Return to Dreamland Deluxe also spiffs up the visuals with a new comic-book inspired art style that works well, whether you’re playing on the Switch’s screen or your television.

The biggest additions, however, are an entirely original epilogue that places you in the role of Magolor, the interdimensional traveler who plays a major part in the original game’s story. As you lead Magolor across 24 new levels, you work to restore the powers he’s lost—a neat twist that makes the experience feel different from the main Kirby content.

While Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe may not be the most challenging or polished platformer in Nintendo’s catalog, it’s a charming little experience that’s worth revisiting on the Switch, whether you’re playing solo or in co-op with up to three of your friends.

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