Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Kirby's Return To Dreamland

If there's one thing I think Sony and Microsoft forgot about in the last (and probably current) console generation, it's that people still like to get together with friends, hang out together, and play games.  Nintendo, however, did not forget this, and regularly put out games for people looking to have fun with their friends and loved ones while planted in front of a television waggling sticks around.

To this, I say "kudos" to Nintendo.

One of the games I think I've had the most fun in this "wild and crazy co-op" world is Kirby's Return To Dreamland.

One hint: don't let someone who dies often play the 1st player.  That character tends to control everybody's fate.

Something I often tell people is that I miss the days when you could make up whatever kind of insane story you wanted, design a game around it, and then just put it out so people could have fun playing it.  Everything these days needs to be grim, realistic, and gritty.  Gone are the days of assembling giant burgers by running over ingredients and crushing enemies beneath giant meat patties or leaves of lettuce.  Gone are the days where people would joust against each other while riding ostriches.

And then a game comes around where a little pink ball swings around a sword larger than his cast of characters put together, turns into a giant snowball to roll across the ground like something from Katamari Damacy, or uses a magic wand to summon huge balls of electricity to destroy everything around him.

Pictured: Physics being told to "take a hike."
Here's the story:  Kirby, along with Waddle Dee, Metaknight, and (my personal favorite) King Dedede get caught up in an adventure that crosses planets when a huge spaceship crashes near them.  The lone being on board (named Magolor) recruits them to help recover the parts of his ship that broke off during impact.  The heroes (sorta) need to cross multiple stages and "realms" to assemble the ship pieces before taking off to face the evil threat to Magolor's home world.

It's the most nonsensical plot I've seen in quite a while, especially when you remember that the lead character gets most of his power from "eating" the enemies he faces.

Now, I haven't played a Kirby game in some time, so there are a few things that are completely new to me.  First off is there's two power levels of, pardon the phrase, "suck."  There's the standard, and then if you shake the Wii-mote when you use the move, you can suck in larger objects (such as the giant figure pictured above) or giant blocks.  You can't swallow them, but when you spit out the giant star that forms, it travels across the screen, taking out everything in its path.

There's also the ultra-powerful moves, as shone above.  You tend to get at least one per section of the game, and each one has its own distinct abilities and game play features.  Sadly, only Kirby can use these, but there's really nothing stopping anybody else playing from having a Kirby of their own.

A lot of the standard Kirby enemies make their appearance again, including my favorite terrible boss, that tree from the Whispy Woods.  I never understood why he was a boss to begin with, since "being forever immobile and only facing one direction" is a pretty poor thing to put on a game boss.

"But wait, I helped you in the original game, Dedede!"
"Sorry, buddy.  Dutch Elm disease is no laughing matter.  You gotta go."
The different characters all have small differences in how they control.  Metaknight swings his blades quickly, Waddle Dee has the most reach with his spear, and Dedede hits like he does in Smash Bros.

As in, he's ridiculously powerful, if a bit slow on the swing.

Characters can also charge their moves, use different moves while rushing, and use button combinations to do other moves.  Certain characters also trump the need for Kirby to have certain abilities or "items" that he can pick up.  Dedede, for example, can smash straight through some blocks that Kirby would normally need a small portable cannon for.

Should one of the additional characters run out of health, they will disappear, but the game is pretty neat in that players can drop in and out of the game with a simple button press.  You simply take one of the extra lives when you do, but if you leave, the life goes back into the stack for Kirby.  Should you wander off screen, the game will politely sweep you back and deposit you on top of Kirby again.  After all, it is his game.

I did find it annoying, though, that if there was an area that was particularly dangerous, I could use my control of the second player (yes, I played the game in co-op) to simply rush in, take some damage, and get the problem resolved.  If the person playing Kirby attempted that and died, we'd all have to start the stage over.  If I died, Kirby could keep going and I'd just respawn next to him when I pressed the button to load a character again.

The controls are mostly forgiving, but certain platforming parts of the game got rather irritating, especially when a character is required to carry a bomb around to unlock other parts of the stage.  There are also hidden Energy Spheres in each stage to be found, sometimes stored in little pocket dimensions and being held by a mini-boss.  While the stages aren't too difficult to get through, making sure you don't miss an Energy Sphere can be a bit tricky sometimes.

Overall, the game is a lot of fun, and there are enough cute little touches to make you smile.  If you jump onto a character, you'll grab onto their back and ride around (not really causing any harm to the character you're riding on, you just can't do anything until you jump off).  One character flying can be grabbed by someone else and be given a free ride until the first character lands.  Sadly you can't combine moves together, having Kirby turn into a giant stone and then having Dedede golf-swing connect with it to launch Kirby into an enemy would have been a blast.

If you have a Wii, this should probably be one of the games you make sure you own along with the other "must-haves" (Zelda games, Mario games, Boom Blox Bash Party, etc).  It's simple, pure fun, nothing too deep, and there's enough moments of pure fun that will make you just enjoy yourself.

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