The embargo for Kirby and the Forgotten Land reviews has lifted, raising the floodgates for opinions on HAL Laboratory’s latest platformer. So far, most critics are feeling positive about Kirby’s new adventure, with the Nintendo Switch exclusive sitting comfortably at an 85 score on Metacritic. From the sounds of things, Forgotten Land could be a success.
Part of the allure for the cutesy 3D game is the new Mouthful mode, celebrated by many reviews. This ability lets Kirby, 30 years old this year, expand his already gelatinous mouth to swallow massive objects–like traffic cones and vending machines–to solve puzzles. It’s fucked up and terrifying, yet, Mouthful mode is so captivating it’s hard to look away when Kirby’s body conforms to whatever shape is in his mouth. It really makes you wonder what his digestive tract is like…if he even has one.
It’s not all fun and games, though. Turns out that for as adorable as Kirby and the Forgotten Land is, the game lacks replayability. Many critics also point to the lacklustre enemies and unchallenging combat as weak spots in an otherwise bright and charming action-adventure game. An odd criticism of a franchise that has always focused on being easy and accessible to children for three decades.
We here at Kotaku Dot Com didn’t get an advance code of Kirby and the Forgotten Land in time for a review, but we’ll have our considered opinion with you soon. With that, here’s a look at what some reviewers are saying about HAL Laboratory’s action platformer.
Nintendo’s insatiable pink mascot finally has his first full-featured 3D adventure with Kirby and the Forgotten Land. After being sucked into a mysterious vortex (oh, how the tables have turned), he finds himself transported to what looks to be an unknown post-apocalyptic world. By building upon his old bag of tricks and adding successful new gimmicks like Mouthful Mode, Kirby makes a fantastic transition to the third dimension.
Though Forgotten Land mostly sticks with the tried-and-true world themes we’ve come to expect from Nintendo platformers — grass, sea, ice, fire, desert, etc. — the remnants of civilisation present in the ‘Forgotten Land’ give these locales mysterious vibes that make them unique. From an abandoned shopping mall and amusement park to a haunted house and chilly metro station, each of Forgotten Land’s 30+ stages tell their own story. Unlike some other recent Kirby games, it almost always feels fresh and full of new ideas.
That extends somewhat to the new “Mouthful” abilities he can use, which includes the now-notorious car transformation. These are everyday objects that Kirby can’t quite swallow, instead altering his body while his mouth is wrapped around them (gross) to let you navigate a specific area ahead of you. Call me old fashioned, but Kirby mostly turning into a vending machine would be more odd than it was clever if it weren’t for the fun way these Mouthful powers are used and revisited throughout the campaign. The car lets you drive fast through some exciting tracks designed for speed, the vending machine slows your movement but lets you rapidly fire cans out of your mouth, and one hilarious circular object basically turns Kirby into a giant air blaster that can be used to spin fans, knock over enemies, and even power little boats through the water. I’m not sure how Developer HAL Laboratory did it, but they managed to make traffic cones, scissor lifts, and even large, nondescript metal pipes into genuinely entertaining transformations.
Part of this power vacuum is supplemented with the new Mouthful Mode vehicles. These are kind of like giant copy abilities, where Kirby sucks up a car or a big lightbulb, usually to solve an environmental puzzle. However, because the items are too big, Kirby can’t fully absorb them, so they act more like temporary vehicles than powers you can carry throughout the level — for those familiar with 2016’s Kirby: Planet Robobot, they’re like far less flexible (but cuter) versions of Kirby’s mech in that game. It’s an adorable and hilarious visual, watching Kirby’s little feet trail behind a moving car, or stretch out on the sides of a stairwell. But as with the copy abilities, there are too few Mouthful moments. And by the third world, Forgotten Land had shown me almost every new object I could inhale. What started as an exciting feature quickly became stale.
Unfortunately, the game takes too long to get going. It terminally slowly ratchets up the difficulty with platforming and Waddle Dee puzzles that by the time I got to the final stage and boss fight, it was finally enough of an interesting challenge. I would have much preferred if the game had started with that kind of difficulty and stayed at that level for the entire game. There are harder bonus levels post end credits that really test your puzzle solving/secret finding skills that I wish had made up the game’s core. That said, Forgotten Land feels like it’s more for younger kids and their parents so I understand why its level of difficulty might be a little too slow for me.
Speaking of those character action masters, a special nod (once again) to the final stretch of the game. In true Kirby fashion, it boils over from rainbow-hued fun to something more cosmic. Outside of Platinum, no one knows how to end a game bigger than HAL. We just wish they channelled some of that five-star magic into the more low key platforming leading up to it — that would be a game worthy of the Nintendo greats. As it is, Forgotten Land is another accomplished charmer from HAL’s inhalatory hero.
While Kirby and the Forgotten Land might not provide much of a challenge, it seems like the solid palette cleanser after getting beaten down by Elden Ring. I know I’m looking forward to stepping away from the desolation that is the Lands Between. Hopefully, the Forgotten Land will feel like a nice vacation.