Kirby’s Dream Buffet is built on sheer delight. It’s not just Kirby and his adorable antics that hook you in for this multi-stage battle royale party game, it’s the shining, gooey tomatoes. The sizzling bacon. The deep pits of warm, bubbling chocolate. The way Kirby squidges his way through tactile, blobby icing during races, and the twists in every food-themed stage. It’s also the way Kirby sits in the game’s multiplayer waiting area, and players can let out a heart-warming, high-pitched ‘Hiiiii!~’ that kicks off a chain of noisy Kirby glee.
It’s downright adorable – but the cuteness is not a replacement for substance. Kirby’s Dream Buffet already has that in spades.
In Kirby’s Dream Buffet, you play as a cutesy, bouncy Kirby with a single goal: to reach the end of a multi-stage course, and come out the other end victorious. But how you do that is as funny as it is strange. Your goal, as Kirby, is to eat as many strawberries as possible by collecting them in the races, fighting for them in mini-game action, and nabbing them in quick battle royale fights. Each strawberry you consume makes Kirby grow bigger, lending him more heft and power on the battlefield – until he’s ridiculously big, and ridiculously blobby (which can make it difficult to tramp through some races).
Winning races doesn’t guarantee victory – it only grants you more strawberries. So while you can certainly put a laser focus on conquering every food-themed course, Kirby’s Dream Buffet actually prioritises a more well-rounded approach. If you’ve got a massive advantage over your fellow competitors with hoarded strawberries from the first three mini-games, you can get away with rarely trying in the final battle royale – but it’s here where your mettle is tested most.
Each Main Course battle royale takes place on a themed stage where strawberries drop frequently, and special boxes can drop Copy Food Abilities for Kirby – the primary abilities are a ground pound, flaming roll, high-speed roll, fast ooze (jelly), and a tornado twist. If you’re standing near an enemy Kirby that activates any of these abilities in the battle royale stage, you’re usually sent flying off-screen. You lose some strawberries in the process, and your opponent gains some, lessening your advantage.
It’s really anyone’s game until the battle royale, making each stage a more tense and exciting romp. There’s a build-up in the drama until you get to the finale – and that makes your moves all the more frantic. It also levels the playing field – if you’re good at the races, you can get by just fine, but it’s easy enough to have victory slip from you in the final moments of each game.
Losing is still encouraging, since no player has a massive advantage over another, which means victory always seems a few inches away. With each course presenting a tantalising opportunity to snatch a win, whiling away hours is easy.
Each time you complete a round – win or lose – you’ll end up unlocking special items including skins, accessories, decorations, and brand new courses. While the items are largely cosmetic, the inclusion of new, unlockable courses is part of what makes the gameplay loop in Kirby’s Dream Buffet so satisfying.
With a firm four-stage structure, gameplay can get monotonous hours in – but with each milestone in your journey unlocking more stages, you’ll always find something new in your adventures.
Some courses are fairly linear, and just require you to collect strawberries and avoid obstacles while trying to gain a speed advantage over your competitors. Others have clever twists that allow you to skip whole parts of the stage, as long as you know where to look. Climb up the chocolate fountain, and you’ll find a secret canon that shoots you across the stage and past several barriers. Discover a unique pathway off to the side, and you might find more strawberries to consume, or a special blueberry that could win you extra points.
With multiple pathways in each stage, there are always new tactics to try – and because coming first in a race rewards you with 50 extra strawberries, there are plenty of reasons to experiment and play around in the game’s many courses.
Each course is snappy, colourful, and memorable with details and surprises packed into every corner. Some stages are decorated with whipped cream that slow your roll. Other stages let you gain speed by bouncing off soft eggs, or rolling along bacon slides. Even if you’re not entranced by the game’s rolling, jumping and racing stages, the game is just fascinating to look at. Mouth-watering if you’re hungry, but delightful either way.
It’s hard not to play the game without a smile – even when larger enemy Kirbys are bouncing and bustling you out of the way. There’s just so much love here – and with each course rushing by in a blink, you’ll quickly find yourself coming back for seconds. With ever more courses and customisations over the horizon, there’s every reason to go around the loop again.
While the repetition of gameplay and rigid course structure eventually wear thin – there’s not much to Kirby’s Dream Buffet beyond the four-stage multiplayer courses – the existing gameplay loop and unlockables are enough to keep you rolling for hours, discovering something new with every battle.
This is a game for the Fall Guys era – a mini battle royale that hooks itself on addictive, satisfying gameplay and cutesy mini-games that’ll have you battling through colourful, gorgeous stages and finding new techniques to conquer at every turn. Unlike Fall Guys, it doesn’t quite have the scope of a fully-fledged battle royale – you can only connect with four other players online, and each stage relies on simple mechanics – but it still presents a very sweet morsel in a nice, tasty package.
Come for the sweet treats, and stay for the cutthroat action as each ginormous Kirby wobbles and rolls its way down pizza and ice cream highways to victory. This party royale is finger-lickin’ good.
Four stars: ★★★★
Kirby’s Dream Buffet
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Release Date: 18 August 2022
A code for Kirby’s Dream Buffet on Nintendo Switch was provided and played for the purposes of this review.