While I've yet to finish it, I think my perception of the game has more or less solidified almost to the end of world 6. I'm enjoying the game (I play co-op as Waddle Dee) and will probably play into the post-game.

The Kirby fundamentals translated well into 3D. Still present is the strange texture of its somewhat muddy difficulty. Even when the level design shines it's often possible to kind of fudge your way through it because of the generous health pickups and health bars.

I get the sense that if I self-imposed limitations (no healing, no abilities and floating except when necessary) the levels would probably be a lot more interesting to play? Floating lets you pay less attention the level geometry, generous health lets you pay less attention to hazards, generous attacks lets you pay less attention to enemy placements. It's actually a really well-balanced difficult level for people who haven't played many action games, which I respect - the boss designs feel juuust dynamic enough to surprise those players but also remain predictable enough to be manageable. The game even gives some tools to make life a little easier (stackable attack, speed and health buffs, upgradeable abilites). I haven't played many recent kirbies but this felt like a good way for the main quest in Forgotten Land to include trickier bosses while giving enough tools for any level of player to overcome things.

It would have been nice if the game included a way to enforce that the limitations I had in mind, but I guess as is it's still fun, and I could always enforce them myself.

The gacha collection system is kind of whatever - it's repetitive and you only get to decorate your home with three. It felt like it was there to pad out the levels with little dopamine boosts.

The Waddle Dee Village is fun to grow so far, but I feel like it could have been pushed to more interesting places than the few minigames and shops it gives out.

I like the missable side missions, but having the side missions be completeable the first time through always gave me a bit of an 'ugh' feeling when I would just miss one Waddle Dee and know I have to replay the whole stage to get it again. I forget, but I think progress is only saved when completing the level...? That seemed like a weird choice. The side missions do strike a nice balance between perfunctory (find 5 tulips) and interesting (kill a boss while transformed in a weird state).

The little challenge levels (that give upgrade materials) were a cute addition, but they feel repetitive after a while even though I like their design direction. Likewise, within main levels themselves, there are challenge rooms. These are cute but I feel kind of break up the pacing in a strange way, I get the sense they exist because the main level philosophy seems to be built around not enforcing mandatory abilities. However, it would be a waste if the designers didn't build some levels to take advantage of the unique moves each ability has, hence the challenge rooms and challenge levels.

Overall it comes off as kind of a weird, diluted kind of design with odd pacing. Some of the challenges are more perfunctory, but I feel like Kirby could work really well in a 2D-esque Zelda-dungeon setting? Of course, that would be abandoning Kirby's 'use any ability at any time' philosophy (which kind of points to the ways that those kinds of design philosophies can be awkwardly restrictive.) All that these isolated challenge roads really need to feel less awkward would be to slot them into a bigger level with a better arc of drama and pacing. Still, it's admirable to have the challenges anyways, I think it shows the designers' love of the ability sets.

Oh, the art direction - I thought it went between inspired/interesting, to like... out of place? (The regular looking cities.) A bit all over the place.

I have thoughts on the story/setting so far but I haven't finished so I'll wait. It feels pretty usual for Kirby as far as I can tell, but sometimes the dissonance of gunning down little puppies in an amusement park feels really odd! I don't think Kirby games need a deep story, but I do think if you're going to make a postapocalyptic wasteland setting then it should be justified somehow.. we'll see how it pans out.

Overall, a pretty solid base of a game, but I think it plays its hand too conservatively and safely a lot of the time to be a great game.

Reviewed on Mar 31, 2022