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Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe review

Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe is a sweet morsel of platforming goodness, drenched in eldritch horror.
kirby's return to dream land deluxe review

Kirby leads an interesting life. When he’s not spending time by a lakeside fishing, or wandering grassy, idyllic forests with his equally adorable pals, he’s romping through hellish dimensions, battling eldritch beasts with clawing tentacles, all-seeing eyes, and laser beams that shoot out with such force, they instantly destroy everything in their path. In Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, he greets these challenges as usual: with a beaming smile, and a mouth full of enemies.

Return to Dream Land Deluxe continues this tradition, with a return to the classic side-scrolling Kirby formula of old. This game is a remaster of a Nintendo Wii original, complete with refreshed graphics and controls, features, and a brand new epilogue starring Magalor. Despite it being more than a decade old, it’s an adventure that certainly holds up – just as bright, colourful, and charming as it was in the Nintendo Wii era.

While the Kirby franchise has expanded since the Return to Dream Land days, this brief sojourn to the past reveals why Kirby has been such an enduring franchise.

The night is darkest before the dawn

kirby return to dream land
Screenshot: GamesHub

Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe begins with a mysterious, wordless cutscene detailing the plight of Magalor, a dimensional traveller who winds up stranded on Planet Popstar after his ship is torn into tiny pieces. Kirby, being the helpful little guy that he is, decides to help Magalor – and sets off on a level-based quest to retrieve each individual part of Magalor’s space ship.

The action is segmented into multiple themed worlds, and multiple levels within these worlds, with each containing side-scrolling lands filled with a variety of enemies – some of which can be sucked up and ‘copied’ to generate new Kirby abilities, as per usual – as well as various obstacles to overcome.

Kirby has his full arsenal of Copy Abilities here, which allow him to control the sea, electricity, fire, wind, and other elements. There’s also a snazzy robotic ability in later stages that allows Kirby to pilot a mecha. Each has its own benefits, and with multiple abilities provided for the game’s many boss fights, there’s a real freedom of choice in how you tackle major battles. While the game is light on difficulty, this provides scope to try out new attacks, and spend your time memorising patterns as Kirby darts around a darkening battlefield, and perfects his dodge rolls and flaps.

>kirby return to dream land review
Screenshot: GamesHub

Beyond the snappy, sleek combat, what strikes immediately when embarking on Kirby’s latest adventure is just how beautiful its worlds are. Early landscapes are depicted in a pastel art style that brings clouds, forests, and oceans to life. Cel-shading also helps to differentiate Kirby and his enemies from these gorgeous worlds, so the action is never too distracting, despite its vividness.

While this beauty quickly gives way to harsher landscapes, as Kirby is thrown into volcanoes and robotic worlds, the game maintains a real sense of vividness and colour.

The palette actually becomes indicative of the game’s stakes the further you travel, with soft pinks and blues slowly transitioning to harsher reds, blacks, and greys as the game’s difficulty ramps up – and eldritch terrors start leaking into Planet Popstar.

>kirby return to dream land deluxe review
Screenshot: GamesHub

Waddle Dees and Scarfy creatures quickly give way to hulking monstrosities. Enemies with one giant eyeball. One with no face, and a giant sword. A flying rabbit with a single eye. A beast with chomping teeth. Then, a giant being made of energy and darkness, coming for Kirby’s soul.

If you’re familiar with the franchise, these enemies will hardly be a surprise – but tonally, they ensure Kirby’s Return to Dream Land is just as quietly sinister as its predecessors. While the game does present less of a challenge than past titles – damage is very forgiving, and even hulking enemies have surprisingly short health bars – it remains delightful, even as it gets darker.

Magalor gets a starring role in this adventure

magalor return to dream land
Screenshot: GamesHub

Likewise, the additional Magalor chapter continues creeping, sinister darkness at the heart of Return to Dream Land. This epilogue lets you control the hero Magalor as he restores his lost powers to their full glory, one level at a time. The structure here is similar to the rest of Return to Dream Land, although levels are slightly shorter, and Magalor has a range of dimensional abilities that transform gameplay.

That makes his chapter rather intriguing; it lets you experiment with a whole new moveset, and explore an even stranger world. Magalor has harder-hitting moves than Kirby, and many of them are long-ranged. He also has access to a fantastic, strong shield that blocks damage, allowing you to figure out new ways to tackle enemies and survive with your health bar intact.

While the action does feel like Return to Dream Land: ‘The Redux‘, the epilogue makes tweaks that contribute to a worthy sense of originality.

It also amps up the difficulty of the base game, which can feel fairly breezy at times. Pair that with the chapter’s 2-3 hour runtime, and you’ve got a worthy companion and mini-sequel to the events of Return to Dream Land.

Return to Dream Land hides other secrets

When you’re not romping around with Magalor, or working your way through Kirby’s world-spanning adventures, Return to Dream Land Deluxe also offers other activities, in the form of Mario Party-style mini-games you can tackle solo, or with friends.

Buffing out the base game’s slick 5-6 hour runtime is the new Merry Magoland mode, which transports Kirby from battles against towering beasts to a brightly-lit playground filled with party games. While this mode does feel like an inessential add-on, it justifies its own existence by providing new unlockables, collectible Stamp Rally achievements, and a collection of games that hail from across Kirby history.

This is essentially an all-star version of Kirby‘s best mini-game hits, included alongside Return to Dream Land for added sugar on top. It helps that each choice is great fun, and that genuine hits like Smash Ride from Kirby: Squeak Squad (where you bump your opponents off a circular ring) are included.

While the plethora of disparate modes makes Return to Dream Land Deluxe feel like a stuffed smorgasbord, it’s hard to be put off by more Kirby. Whether you’re battling oozing beasts, taking the reins of a new heroic adventure, or just trying to swallow eggs, this release has everything you’d want in a Kirby game.

Return to Dream Land‘s lack of difficulty does dampen some of its more creative ideas, but it remains a colourful, sleek adventure – and one that’s been perfectly adapted, remastered, and expanded for Deluxe. Kirby, as always, deserves more time in the sun – and this collection is a wonderful ode to my favourite pink blob.

4 Stars: ★★★★

Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe
Platforms:
 Nintendo Switch
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 24 February 2023

A copy of Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe was provided and played for the purposes of this review. GamesHub has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content. GamesHub may earn a small percentage of commission for products purchased via affiliate links.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.