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Kirby’s Return To Dream Land Deluxe review: an adorable remake with a missed opportunity

Kirby’s Return To Dream Land Deluxe review: an adorable remake with a missed opportunity

Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe is a charming remake of a Wii classic, but its lack of online co-op makes it feel dated.

If there’s one thing I love about Kirby games, it’s that no matter what, playing them feels like receiving a warm hug. There are few things more joyful than waddling around the colourful, cheery world of Planet Popstar (or wherever else the pink puffball’s travels may take him), to the upbeat tempo of the soundtrack’s many merry tunes, inhaling creatures that look far too cute to be enemies in order to borrow their powers.

Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is no different, and as a remake of the beloved 2011 Wii instalment, familiarity is - obviously - to be expected. With that said, in my time with the game, I couldn’t help but feel that a little more should have been done to justify the 2D platformer’s pricey modern-day makeover on Switch.

Take a look at the trailer for Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe right here.

For those unfamiliar, the plot follows Kirby and his friends (and ex foes) Bandana Waddle Dee, King Dedede and Meta Knight, who team up to assist a creature called Magolor in rebuilding his ship (the Lor Starcutter) after he crash lands on Planet Popstar. With his ship parts scattered all across the world, it’s up to Kirby to find them and help Magolor return home.

There’s no denying that Return to Dream Land Deluxe is gorgeous - the deep, vibrant colours, updated textures and extra smooth frame rate have elevated what was already a visually pleasing game to a whole new level. The lavender hues of White Wafers’ skies, the glistening turquoise water in Onion Ocean, and the lush greens of Cookie Country are breathtaking, and nostalgic fans are going to fall in love all over again. Kirby and the gang have all been given facelifts, too - they have a new outlined appearance akin to book illustrations, which compliments the 2D style of gameplay well.

Every level in Return to Dream Land Deluxe is vibrant. /
Nintendo.

Although the structure of the stages is identical to the Wii original, there are a couple of new Copy Abilities to experiment with - Sand and Mecha. If you can bring yourself to suck up one of the adorable fresh-faced sand lizards, Kirby can throw sand at his foes, weaponising the very real pain of getting grains blown into your eyes at the beach. He can also blast enemies with sand tornadoes, shield himself by turning into a mini dune, and basically turn into Spider-Man 3’s antagonist and charge up huge sandy fists to slam opponents with.

Mecha is definitely the more interesting of the two. By swallowing a robot, Kirby can suit up and fire powerful laser beams, send out explosives, and even shoot rounds like a tiny, adorable machine gun. Along with the rest of the returning Challenge Stages found in the Lor Starcutter, the new Copy Abilities have also been given their own stages for players to perfect.

Expanding on the side-content available, a new mini game hub called Merry Magoland has been added. Run by Magolor himself, a total of 10 mini games are available to play alone or with friends in local co-op, most of which are old, remastered favourites from earlier in the series. Oh, and you can wave to all the Waddle Dees hanging out there, and they’ll wave back. That’s very important.

The Waddle Dees are far too cute. /
Nintendo.

Making a comeback from the original Return to Dream Land is the Ninja Dojo mini game - players can either use button controls or swing their Joy-Con to throw ninja stars at targets (this one is still the best, in my opinion). Samurai Kirby is also back, and now boasts online functionality so that you can put your reflexes to the test against 100 others.

Magolor’s Tome Trackers and Booming Blasters are the brand new additions, and the latter is definitely the stronger of the two. Trapped in a top-down arena, players frantically charge around firing lasers at each other until either the timer runs out (at which point the player with the most points wins) or just one person is left standing. It’s basically Tiny Tanks but with Kirby - what more could you ask for? On the other hand, Magolor’s Tome Trackers isn’t bad, but I didn’t personally find it as enticing as the rest of the lineup. Players must grab the books Magolor asks for as fast as possible without getting mixed up with similar looking ones. Grabbing the wrong one will leave you stunned for a few seconds, giving the other players the chance to rack up points while you’re immobile.

Achievements called Missions are available for all the mini games, adding another bunch of tasks for the completionists of the world to complete. Playing the mini games also awards you with Stamps - earn enough of them, and you’ll be able to unlock character masks to wear either in Merry Magoland itself or the main story levels.

Aim for high scores in the mini games and compete against friends. /
Nintendo.

Without a doubt Return to Dream Land Deluxe’s greatest feature is the addition of the Magolor Epilogue. The gameplay here is very different to that of the main game - players take on the role of a monochrome Magolor who’s lost all his power, and is trapped in Another Dimension. Although he starts out with just a weak basic attack and jump, by racking up combos against enemies, you’ll earn Magic Points. These can then be cashed in to upgrade Magolor’s abilities - and give him new ones.

As you expand Magolor’s arsenal, it’ll become easier to build combos, meaning you’ll be able to rake in even more Magic Points. At the end of each stage, you’ll be given a score based on how many points you managed to accrue, so there’s good reason to replay them once you’ve added to Magolor’s skillset. Speaking of which, despite Kirby’s huge range of Copy Abilities, the Interdimensional Traveler himself is definitely the most fun to play as. With the ability to throw huge explosives, summon black holes and huge lasers, you’d think that his stages would be too easy, but the boss fights in particular are surprisingly challenging (it’s still a Kirby game, mind you, so don’t expect it to be the Dark Souls of cutesy platformers).

If you don’t go to town and unlock every single one of Magolor’s ability upgrades, the epilogue can be completed in around two and a half to three hours, which is pretty significant when you consider that the base game is around seven hours long. It’s also nice that there’s something new here for returning players to sink their teeth into, because in all honesty, there’s not a lot else.

The other main addition to Return to Dream Land Deluxe is ‘Helper Magolor’. Upon starting the game, players have the option to turn on an assist feature which allows Magolor to give you extra health, swoop in and save you from falling in pits, and toss Copy Abilities towards you when needed. While you can never go wrong with additional difficulty options, Return to Dream Land was never a hard game in the first place - even for the most casual of players. Therefore it seems unlikely that anyone who’s played the original is really going to benefit from this (although it’s nice that less experienced gamers will be given a helping hand).

Bosses in the main story aren't much of a challenge. /
Nintendo

Most disappointing of all is the lack of online co-op play. In the original Return to Dream Land, the option for friends to pick up a Wiimote and join a level any time they wanted was easily the best part of the whole game, and so it’s no wonder it was advertised as the main selling point. Realistically though, over a decade on, it can no longer stand on its own as the main feature. Sure, the Switch is a better console than the Wii ever was when it comes to playing games with others, but you’d think in 2023, the title would be able to support online play - the absence of it feels dated, especially when co-op is still pushed as such a major part of the game.

If you’ve not played Return to Dream Land on the Wii, there’s no doubt that this is the very best way to experience it - it’s a classic for a reason, and especially with friends, it’s one worth playing. However, you’d have to be a very hardcore Kirby fan to make a second return to Dream Land when little has changed - the original title still holds up well visually, and the lack of online co-op feels like a huge wasted opportunity to give the game the modern update it deserves.

Regardless of any of that though, this is a game that’ll make you smile. It’s impossible to play through one of the jolly stages or even simply wander around Merry Magoland without feeling a warmth in your heart, and that’s not something that every game can do.

Pros: Gorgeous visuals, Magolor Epilogue is a great addition for veteran fans.

Cons: Returning players don’t get a lot of bang for their buck, the lack of online co-op play is disappointing.

For fans of: Super Mario, cosy games, couch co-op.

7/10: Very Good

Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe releases for Nintendo Switch on 24 February. Code for review was supplied by the publisher. Find a complete guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Nintendo

Topics: Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Kirby