|Dev: HAL Laboratory|
|Release: October 24, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Kirby's Return to Dream Land is the newest Kirby Game for the Wii and the first classic Kirby adventure we've been able to play on a console since the Nintendo 64. There are no strings, no paint, and no pinball machines here; Kirby is called upon to inhale his enemies and copy their powers as he makes his way through level after level, just like the old days. It's refreshing to see Kirby doing what he does best, and with the Wii soon to be cycled out for the Wii U, we need a couple more solid titles to see the best-selling system of this generation out.
Kirby's Return to Dream Land begins when a mysterious alien visitor crash lands on the star-shaped planet, and pieces of his ship are scattered to the four—or five, in this case—corners of the world. Kirby, being the bright and happy storybook character that he is, decides to help this visitor find them again.
As you would expect, Kirby's Return to Dream Land plays like a classic 2D Kirby game, so the basic formula is pretty simple. Kirby can inhale enemies and spit them out as projectiles, or swallow them to copy their powers. In this game, however, Kirby can also perform a Super Inhale—accomplished by shaking the Wiimote—allowing him to suck in objects much bigger than himself, or even multiple enemies at once. When you spit enemies out after a Super Inhale, they become enormous rotating stars that continue to travel forward through enemies and blocks until they fly off the edge of the screen. These stars become bigger the more enemies that you inhale at once. Suck up enough enemies and your projectile will take up nearly half the screen and knock off huge chunks of a boss's life meter.
Of course, any Kirby fan knows that the majority of the time, you aren't simply inhaling enemies and spiting them out; you are using their powers against them. Power management in Kirby's Return to Dream Land is a lot of fun. The game takes a cue from Kirby Super Star by including tons of powers to copy: 20 in all. Also like Kirby Super Star, each power comes with a variety of different attacks mapped to different directions on the D-pad—dashing, pressing a button and holding it to charge, etc.—making each individual power quite versatile. You can get powers either from enemies or simply by touching a power star that is lying around, which is very similar to the power trophies from Super Star as well.
However, the coolest thing about the powers in Kirby's Return to Dream Land is that many of the older powers of the series have been combined. For example, in the past Kirby has had Blaze, which allowed him to become a fireball that blew through enemies, and Fire, which allowed him to breathe fire as an attack. The new version of Fire allows him to breathe fire like normal, but he can also activate a blaze dash in the middle of a dash or a dash jump. In addition, Kirby can also light himself on fire to form a fire shield, and drop flaming napalm drops after an aerial blaze dash.
Other powers have been combined as well. Electricity and Plasma have been combined in Spark, which both generates an electric shield and shoots projectiles that increase in power depending on how many different directions you have pushed. The whip can also grab enemies, allowing Kirby to do some of his trademark Suplex throws. Spike now allows you to speed forward in a spiked ball dash, which operates very similar to Kirby's old Wheel power. There are many more powers than that, and nearly every old power from every old Kirby game has been represented in some way.
New to this game are super enemies, which are basically flashing enemies with better versions of normal powers. Swallowing one of them will grant you a Super Ability for a limited period of time. Super Abilities are hugely exaggerated versions of normal powers. For example, the Super Sword lets you swing a cleaver that is almost the size of the screen. The Super Fire lets you summon a fire dragon that burns everything across the screen in a line. The Super Beam lets you control a swirling ball of death remotely. And so on.
Now, the carnage caused by these Super Abilities is fun in itself, but the real purpose of most of them is to find a hidden "black hole" in each stage. Jumping into a black hole will put Kirby in a mini-stage, where an encroaching wall of blackness is constantly chasing him. If he manages to get to the end, he will receive his choice of two powers and will then have to fight a mini-boss. Defeating a mini-boss yields you two energy spheres, the main collectibles of the game.
The game is actually pretty easy. Kirby has a lot of health, health pickups and 1-ups are plentiful, and every time you pick up 100 stars you get another life (and you easily can get 30 from the goal mini-game at the end of each stage). He even has his standard power-ups like the Invincibility Candy, as well as a brand new array of holdable weapons that he can use in addition to his powers, like a rapid-fire cannon, a shield that covers his head, and even Kuribo's Shoe from Super Mario Bros. 3. But the real challenge is getting the energy spheres that are hidden behind black holes and power-based puzzles that can take multiple playthroughs to get right.
But you aren't just collecting energy spheres for the sake of a 100% completion stamp. Collecting the spheres opens up new options in your home base, the crashed alien ship. Here you will find special challenge levels, rooms filled with Power Stars so you can pick and choose which power to enter a level with, and even motion control minigames that serve as neat little diversions if the platforming gets too repetitive.