Kirby's Return to Dreamland Deluxe review: Floaty and familiar
Kirby, until recently, has had a pretty consistent identity. Ever since Kirby's Dream Land, the puffball (sans pink at the time) has represented a platformer that welcomes all, with an impossibly charming style and a simple playstyle that accommodates anyone who wants to take it for a spin, without worrying too much about posing a massive challenge.
Despite the games' lack of difficulty, Kirby has always been present in the libraries of gamers of all different tastes, offering a simple and squeaky-clean approach to platforming that could appeal to anyone - but as a result, some of the non-descript blob's games have flown too far under the radar. Before the arrival of Kirby and the Forgotten Land and excluding hard spin-offs like Kirby Air Ride, the series' games have remained incredibly similar with each new title, leading to many suffering from a lack of interest, with Planet Robobot and Epic Yarn selling poorly, despite their exciting new twists on the Kirby formula. Perhaps one of the most notable stumbles of the series was Return to Dreamland, a game that debuted on the Wii with a squeak, never really getting its dues or representation when it comes to reflection on its iconic series.
But, with a new Deluxe edition remake on the Nintendo Switch, it looks as though the return of Return could be more bombastic than ever - and the game itself proves that its original lack of attention was deeply unjustified.
Kirby's Return to Basics
Kirby's Return to Dreamland Deluxe offers us the same story as its 2011 original title - Kirby is having shenanigans with Meta Knight, King Dedede and Bandana Waddle Dee around Planet Popstar, when they see an intergalactic ship thunder through a rift in the sky and crash into the ground. Meeting its pilot, an alien named Magolor, the crew pledge to help them get back to their home planet by collecting key broken pieces of his Lor Starcutter ride home - but as it turns out, Magolor might not be all they seem.
Story is light here, of course, as the key focus is on the fun that players can have as the pink puffball and his friends - and Return to Dreamland doesn't skimp. Building its Deluxe title with new copy abilities, upgraded graphics, a new Merry Magoland hub world packed with new sub-games and a compelling epilogue starring Magolor, there's plenty to be seen in the game, and much of it is exactly what fans will hope for.
The challenge of the game remains pretty limited, and though some of the game's puzzles aren't particularly compelling, the fun of it all still lies in finding new powers, battering Waddle Dees and feeling like, as Kirby, you're taking part in a gorgeous new adventure. Return to Dreamland Deluxe is a comfortable throwback to an era of Kirby's life that doesn't reinvent the wheel, but allows fans to indulge in what made many fans fall in love with the Dreamlandian.
Same puffball, new tricks
Much of the replayability of Return to Dreamland Deluxe comes from its newest addition, the Mega Magoland hub that is packed with sub-games for you and your pals to dive into. This area, much like the collection of sub-games in the original and in Super Star Ultra feel like a desiccated Mario Party spin-off, but they're just as infectious and replayable as you'd hope from a hugely boasted area. The additions of masks for Kirby to wear and bosses coming to hang out in the area once you've toppled them makes the zone feel a place of Kirby community, something that becomes pretty clear to have been sadly absent from much of the pink puffball's outings.
There is also, of course, a brand new epilogue for the game, following Magolor after the events of the main story. The new gameplay, though short, adds a brand new way to play in a world so similar to Kirby's, and is an incredibly refreshing change of pace after experiencing what is ultimately a lot of the same type of experience. Capping the story off with such a brisk change makes for a real treat, and though it's not long enough to be comparable to the likes of Bowser's Fury, there is no doubt that it's something fans of the original game will fall head over heels for.
We knew very much what to expect from Kirby's Return to Dreamland Deluxe, and it doesn't disappoint. Perhaps not the boldest Kirby title we've seen, especially on the Switch - but it's a chirpy, charming throwback that brings the core of what Kirby is all about to the Switch after the frustrating misstep that Star Allies proved itself to be.
For fans of who Kirby is, what Kirby has been, and what Kirby may become, Return to Dreamland is potentially a precursor to a new, changing era of the pink puffball, and may very well be the last of its kind as Nintendo looks to the future of the series. It's good news, then, that it's such a rosy treat.
Review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.