For all I can be a bit strange at times and I enjoy a movie with a good disembowelling as much as the next person, I also pride myself on having a thriving inner child. This side of me is particularly apparent in the games I enjoy playing. I’ve played the likes of Resident Evil and ZombiU and nearly crapped myself, and the joint analogue stick controls on FPSes just confuse me. So, when it comes to video games, I prefer to keep it cute and colourful. Like, ‘my-corneas-are-burning-it’s-so-bright’ colourful. For reasons I don’t truly understand I also derive immense amounts of joy from playing really old games on really new hardware, and the good people over at Nintendo have made a lot more money out of me from their back catalogue than they have off of anything new they’ve released.
This brings us to Kirby’s Dream Land, or, as I like to think of it, the childhood I never got to experience. I owned a Game Boy back in the day, but at the tender young age of 7 I wasn’t really earning enough in terms of a salary to be rolling around in glorious grey cartridges. Also, I was decidedly less strange as a child, and I don’t think this game’s cuteness would have appealed to me back then.
Whilst I didn’t get to play this game as a child, it does keep to the same premise of so many of the games that I did enjoy from the 8-bit era: you don’t need a hell of a story just to run from one end of the screen to the other while avoiding enemies.
Loosely, the game takes place in Dream Land, which is Kirby’s home. All of the food in Dream Land has been stolen by King Dedede (who, in later games, is one of Kirby’s nemeses/best friends) and is being kept in his castle. It’s up to Kirby to venture through Dream Land, beat the crap out of all who oppose him (but in an adorable way since Kirby is, technically, a child) and get the food back. The story doesn’t actually affect the gameplay in any meaningful way, but it does add to the overall charm of the experience.
The game itself, and this is true for most of the games in this franchise, is incredibly easy, even in comparison to other platformers of its time. This series of games is intended to be an introduction to games and is primarily aimed at children. Whilst I can imagine that watching a hypothetical future child of my own playing this would be overwhelmingly endearing, I believe the only way to truly experience it is to be in your 20s and shout vile obscenities when an exploding coconut (which you never see in time) lands on dear Kirby’s head. Many a night I have laid in bed, cursing these coconuts and vowing my revenge when I save Dream Land.
But I digress. In addition to being quite simple, Kirby’s introductory outing is also quite short – split over 5 levels divided up into a number of smaller areas, you can play through the entire game in a one hour sitting. The goal is simple: Kirby starts at one end of the stage and, by defeating or avoiding various enemies and keeping an eye out on the terrain, you need to make it to the other end of the stage. Each level has a mid-way boss who is quite simple to defeat, and at the end of the level will be the final boss who can also be defeated with relative ease. The only boss who will provide any real difficulty is King Dedede himself, who has a tremendously annoying habit of inhaling you and then spitting you out across the room.
So far as your enemies go, they’re all rather innocuous (except the birds – those things will fly out of nowhere and take you down. They have also brought my vengeance upon themselves) and, provided you know what each enemy type can do, it’s easy enough to dispatch whatever you come across by inhaling them. Failing all else Kirby can fly over most obstacles, so there isn’t really an awful lot that can hinder your progress.
Then there’s the music. I imagine if children’s dreams had a soundtrack, it would sound a lot like what you’ll find in this game. You know that music you just listen to and you can’t help but smile because you feel your soul is being hugged by a baby unicorn? It’s like that. And don’t get me started on the little tune that plays when Kirby beats a main boss and does a little dance. I honestly don’t think there’s a happier sound in the world, and thankfully it has been retained in most of the franchise’s later games.
The only thing that may strike people who have played later games in the franchise before this one is the lack of Kirby’s copy ability. The copy ability, in later games, allows Kirby to inhale his enemy and duplicate its powers (swords, spears, spikes etc.), but here all you can do is inhale enemies and then spit them back out as projectiles. The only power that you will be able to make use of is the microphone, which allows Kirby to blast his voice and destroy any enemies that appear on-screen. I can do a similar trick whereby I sing out loud and watch all nearby persons run for cover. On a particularly good day I can make their ears bleed.
Oh, the feelings that Kirby will elicit! If you have any soul, you will walk away from this game feeling like the child inside you has been reborn. Once you have managed to achieve your vengeance against the birds that keep flying directly at you and the coconuts that like to drop on you, you will be able to go out into the world feeling all warm and fuzzy inside as though a kindle of kittens (that is the proper collective noun for them – I like my readers to leave feeling like they’ve learned something) has taken up residence in your heart. Seriously, just go play the game and see what I mean.
My Final Rating: 7 / 10