Kirby and the Forgotten Land review: cute, simple, monotonous

My favorite professor at university once told me that My Neighbor Totoro is the cutest thing you can watch without throwing up. Kirby and the forgotten land gives Totoro a run for his money on cuteness – but what happens when the cute starts to run out?

What starts out as a new adventure filled with wonder and discovery quickly becomes a bit harrowing forgotten land, and I found myself using simple, familiar powers to solve simple, familiar puzzles. Despite Kirby and the Forgotten LandWith the new 3D camera perspective, cute Mouthful mode, and adorable art direction, the game showed nothing new after its opening hours. Even Kirby’s adorable world couldn’t save him from the monotony.

forgotten land begins with the titular pink puffball being transported out of Planet Popstar and onto a planet more like Earth. But this isn’t New Donk City, and there are no weirdly realistic humans thronging the sidewalks. No, it’s an Earth-like planet well past its prime – urban buildings overtaken by plant life, factories overflowing with unused lava, a mildly haunted amusement park. And every nook and cranny hides one of Kirby’s friends: the recently kidnapped Waddle Dees.

This secrecy-focused level design is where Kirby and the Forgotten Land really works, at least in short bursts. Navigating a new area and finding all the optional objectives hidden there kept me focused and attentive through each level. Unfortunately, the hidden nature of these quests – some of which are only revealed after completing a mission – meant that I would sometimes arrive at the end of a level only to learn that I had missed something, prompting an immediate replay and sickening. When I finally gave up on completely completing each stage before moving on to the next, I fell in love with every hidden alleyway I encountered. Some lead to puzzles, while others lead to powerful upgrades.

Kirby rescues Waddle Dees in Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Image: HAL Lab/Nintendo

The post-apocalyptic setting also gives forgotten land creates an eerily serene sense of place. Using puffs of air to push a boat around a half-submerged building creates an unexpected scene when paired with the game’s cute art style. Because it’s Kirby, the post-apocalypse is never sad ; it’s just a brilliant vision of a planet where Something went wrong. Kirby doesn’t seem to care about what happened here (apart from his friends being kidnapped), and neither do I. Nature took over the world from the society that built these structures, and Kirby and the Forgotten Land find the brightly colored beauty in there.

exploring Kirby and the Forgotten Land is compelling, but going from enemy encounter to enemy encounter is not. Kirby games have always kept gameplay simple to make it easier to juggle the hero’s wide variety of powers – for the most part, Kirby’s abilities only have two moves, depending on whether you’re in the air or on the ground. This remains true in Kirby and the Forgotten Landbut with a significantly reduced power slate.

Kirby has access to only 12 copy abilities, and two of them disappear after using them once: Sleep and Crash. The rest are mostly classics, with only a few new ones. The sword, hammer, and bomb are all there, but so is the new Ranger power, which gives Kirby a gun. Some beloved and iconic powers like Plasma, Wheel, and even Beam are missing.

Kirby and Bandanna Waddle Dee battle Wild Frosty in Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Image: HAL Lab/Nintendo

In other Kirby games, it was rare to come across an enemy that I couldn’t absorb a power from. But in Kirby and the Forgotten Land, these powerless enemies are the norm. Enemies with powers are rare enough that I almost always absorb them, just to taste something different. Without the variety I’m used to in a Kirby game, just mashing the A button to slice through all 10 enemies in a battle quickly grated on me, especially in marathon sessions.

Part of that power vacuum is complemented by the new Mouthful Mode vehicles. They’re kind of like giant copy abilities, where Kirby sucks up a car or a big light bulb, usually to solve an environmental puzzle. However, since 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. Kirby: Planet Robobot, they look like much less flexible (but cuter) versions of Kirby’s robot in this game. It’s an adorable and hilarious visual, watching Kirby’s little feet trailing behind a moving car or spreading out to the sides of a stairwell. But as with copy abilities, there are too few Mouthful moments. And by the third world, forgotten land showed me almost every new item I could inhale. What started as an exciting feature quickly became obsolete.

In 2017, Nintendo’s own Super Mario Odyssey – arguably the best Kirby-like game in years – consistently delivered new enemies to possess, even in its later levels. And other Kirby titles have used a huge group of abilities to deliver a constant dopamine drop across their various worlds. It is therefore here that forgotten land stumble the hardest. Instant gameplay is so monotonous and simple that it kills the pace. With nothing new to look forward to and such a small number of tools at my disposal, I can’t focus on how majesty the world is or how cute its protagonist is.

Everytime Kirby and the Forgotten Land showed me something new, loved it. I smiled from ear to ear the first time I saw Kirby turn into a traffic cone or throw his maw at a water tower. I loved that moment of opening up to each new area where I could roam the outside world and get a glimpse of the new areas I was venturing into. The cutscenes are gorgeous, and watching Kirby and his friends napping in his little house is adorable (as always). Corn Kirby and the Forgotten Land burns too bright, too soon, and that initial joy was hard to recall by credits time.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land will be released on March 25 on nintendo switch. The game was reviewed on Switch using a pre-release download code provided by Nintendo. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.