Kirby’s Return to Dreamland ReviewTiffany Shafer
Kirby's Return to Dreamland is the second Kirby installment for Nintendo this year. However, unlike recent Kirby titles, Return to Dreamland follows more traditional Kirby routes. Kirby's Return to Dreamland hosts a highly reminiscent flare of classic Kirby titles. The gameplay, graphics, and music will strike a familiar chord with Kirby fans.
Return to Dreamland places Kirby back in his home planet of Pop Star. Players follow Kirby through six different worlds, finding scattered spaceship pieces for a stranded alien. Kirby uses his typical attack move, sucking up whatever enemy lies before him and either swallowing it or temporarily absorbing its special ability. Players can also fly Kirby through levels, the entire level if desired, just like the older Kirby titles. This option would be great if a player were to get in a bind, but the outright easiness of the game prevents ever requiring such a need.
In fact, Return to Dreamland is too easy for typical gamers. The lack of difficulty makes it great for children or those looking for low stress gaming. Yet, the lack of a difficulty option might prevent some gamers from playing Kirby for long. If players are willing to play the entire game once-through, a new game becomes available where Kirby's health is decreased by almost half. The fact that players are not given the option to play this mode in the beginning is rather disappointing.
The easiness of the game may dismay experienced gamers. However, it can be great for children or families. The co-op mode adds another benefit to the family gaming appeal of Kirby's Return to Dreamland. Three extra players can join a game at any time. For some inexplicable reason, Kirby's natural foes and a Kirby clone are the available characters to choose from. Whatever the reason for their willingness to help, each character offers unique abilities that are useful in the game.
The co-op mode has its drawbacks, though. All players draw from the same health bar. So, if player three gets hit, players one though four will lose the same amount of health. Also, all players draw a life from the same life pool if they die. Additional players will rejoin the game where ever the other players are currently at. However if the first player dies, everyone must restart at the beginning of the level. Also, if players two through four die and the extra lives are at zero, they still get to rejoin the game. If Kirby (player one) dies with zero extra lives, then players must choose to use a "continue" to get back in the game. Co-op mode would have been a lot better and less annoying if it had followed the New Super Mario Bros. design.
Getting to look at the visuals of the game is one of the best parts of playing it. Return to Dreamland originally began production on the GameCube, and the title's graphic capabilities reveal this reality. Yet, the levels are cute, cartoonish, and playful. The hues are deep and eye-catching. The scenery is just plain fun to look at. The soundtrack is upbeat and similar to older Kirby games from previous consoles.
Return to Dreamland's holds replay value for those interested in co-op gaming. It is also worth replaying a second time for its increased level of difficulty. However, it's hard to imagine many experienced gamers that are not nostalgic Kirby fans playing the entire game once-through. It's just too easy, and as a result, can become boring. There are mini-games and challenge rooms that break up gameplay and add a much-desired level of difficulty to the game. However, it is not enough to hold the attention of experienced gamers.
All in all, Kirby's Return to Dreamland is great for the cute, cartoonish visuals and Kirby fanatics. Gamers that are crazy about Kirby will enjoy the likeness of older Kirby titles in both gameplay and visuals. Return to Dreamland is also great for children or family gaming. There's no blood and guts or profanity. The co-op mode allows for simultaneous group enjoyment, in spite of some drawbacks in its design. Plus, it is easy enough for all age levels to jump right in and play. That being said, the lack of a difficulty option at the beginning of the game reduces its appeal to more experienced gamers.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.