Kirby's Return to Dreamland is the first Nintendo-published game for the Wii since June and only the third of the year, but scarcity alone does not guarantee quality. Nor does the fact that this Kirby game allows him to do what he hasn't done for years: inhale his enemies. So Kirby sucks, but is Kirby's Return to Dreamland worth buying?
Stephen Totilo, who will be reviewing the game and writes the following with some sadness: I got it backwards. Last year, I thought Kirby's Epic Yarn wouldn't be any good. I wound up loving it. This year, I thought, okay, Kirby Wii sidescrollers = high quality. Wrong again. The game is an ordinary platformer, a one to four-player game of running, jumping, inhaling enemies, appropriating their powers and occasionally wielding timed hyper-powers like a sword or hammer that are almost as big as your TV screen. In a five-minute session that's charming. At length, it's numbing and asks its players to make no interesting decisions. Kirby has an amazing amount of moves in this game, but few that make a difference.
The problem with Kirby's Return to Dreamland isn't that it's easy. Great Kirby games, such as Epic Yarn often are. The problem is that this new game is simple without excelling at anything. It animates nicely, giving lie to the idea that the Wii can't render beautiful games in 2011, but Epic Yarn, drawn with a faux yarn-and-fabric style, looked better and was more visually inventive. Its levels flow smoothly but they lack the creative construction of Donkey Kong Country Returns. The multiplayer is no more enjoyable than Lego Star Wars'. Any asset Return to Dreamland has, other Wii games have better. This game feels trumped on day one. Should you buy it? No.
Evan Narcisse, the sampler who has played Kirby's Return to Dreamland a few times in demo meetings and at E3: I'm interested in the idea of multiplayer platformers—games like New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One—because they seem to be experiencing some evolution as a sub-genre. But, while it brings the cute in spades, Return to Dreamland seems to descend into chaos all too often. It's been fun chaos, sure, but spikes of frustration crop up that would make people want to put down the controller. Kirby games have generally been great entry-level video game experiences but one that annoys the people playing would run counter to that implicit mission statement. My gut says No.
Michael Fahey, friend of pink puffballs everywhere, who gives us the non-player's perspective: There isn't a Kirby game that I haven't played, the pink puffball napping peacefully atop my list of all-time favorite Nintendo characters. Kirby's Return to Dreamland promises a return to the classic sucking and blowing platforming greatness that got me hooked on the character in the first place, a game filled with the sort of whimsical fun that stands the test of time. It looks like the sort of game that will be just as entertaining a year from now as it is today, and that's why I'm giving it a pass for the time being. There are too many games being released in the final months of fall that require my immediate attention; games with multiplayer elements that might not be so fresh if I put them off until later, or games with stories I want to experience before someone spoils them for me. If my only gaming platform were the Nintendo Wii I might consider picking this up today. If my only gaming platform were the Nintendo Wii I'd be rather depressed. As it stands I am a well-adjusted multiplatform gamer, and Kirby will still be there when I'm ready for him. No.
Gut Check is an off-the-cuff impression of what we think of a game: what we'd tell a friend; how we'd respond on Twitter or Facebook or over a beer if someone asked us "Would you buy this game?" Our lead writer, who has played a lot of the game, decides. Other writers chime in for additional points of view.