Kirby spares us the embarrassment – he may be officially cool now

Kirby and the Forgotten Land (2022)

It’s a cringe-inducing sight, the type of cringe that makes your entire face fold in on itself as you purse your lips, blow out hard and then grimace. You just cannot believe what you’re seeing, that this embarrassing sight could be allowed to unfold and indeed that nobody stopped this person before now.

You’re desperate to say something, anything, that might alleviate the tension, but you know that it will only make things worse. So all you can do is try to ignore it, pretend it’s not happening, while simultaneously not being able to keep your eyes off the whole grisly affair. I tried to hold my head at a 90 degree angle, glaring directly at the pavement, but still my eyes got drawn upwards and there it was, the source of so much public discomfort – a gentleman walking his cat.

He was wearing socks and sandals as well, but that wasn’t even a priority on the list. I was almost willing to overlook that. But God, there was the cat with a lead around its neck, but you should have seen the look on its face. Animals are more expressive than one may think, and this cat looked palpably embarrassed. I was embarrassed as well, or rather mortified. But the owner, the walker, this public criminal, didn’t have a bean of shame. Well, his type never do, do they? 

I felt dirty, impure. How to wash away this dreadful feeling of second-hand embarrassment? I did jump in the nearby river for a bit to cleanse myself, but the cat, so willing to break free of its torturous situation and in complete contravention of all its animal instincts, tried to jump in after me, so that was a wash.

No, there’s no use combating a situation like that head on. All I could do was go home and try to zap away my worries and frustrations with a video game, I always do that when my coats are in the wash and I’m left with nothing to hide under. But what to play… it’s a nice problem to have, but I simply have too many consoles.

Since I was already breathless on coming home, that meant NES and SNES cartridges were out. N64 and PS1, well, I couldn’t play either of them. Those early graphics were as embarrassing as, well, a cat on a lead. I haven’t been doing weight training for a long time, so the PS3 was out. It would have to be the Switch, which at least confers a few cool points. 

I’ve put thousands of hours into that console, actually, the console that I was so sure would fail. Incidentally, none of my stocks are doing well either and I’ve almost never won a bet. Can you believe that? But when it comes to looking at Switch games, I’ve been through a lot of the big-hitters already – your Breath of the Wilds, your Smash Bros Ultimates, and your Puyo Puyo Tetrises. It meant that I had to go down my list quite a bit.

At the end of this list was… Kirby? Oh dear, was this the swansong? I have this theory that a Nintendo console is finished when a mainline Kirby game gets released for it. Well, Kirby Star Allies didn’t plunge the knife in, so what about this relatively new one then, Kirby & the Forgotten Land? 

Nintendo fans, we say we want one thing but really we want another. We say we want innovation, but actually we crave all new games to be like Breath of the Wild. So when Kirby was first shown to the world looking like a properly 3D game, and I do mean properly 3D unlike the N64 Kirby title (now THAT was a console killer), even cynics like me got all interested. This Kirby game looked like it had something about it.

But oh, why would I play that? I was, after all, looking for something that would bleach my eyes of the socially abhorrent sight inflicted on me down at the park. Unlike the cat, I at least had a chance of restoring my dignity. But Kirby is an embarrassing game to play, and can you combat embarrassment with more embarrassment? A sort of cringe-off, where the most mutilating, tear-inducing sight wins.

I thought I was a pretty content guy, you know, well comfortable in my own skin. Hefty doses of narcissism of course, and a puberty that would have rivalled thon Joffrey from Game of Thrones in terms of how troubled and distressing it was. But now I can operate in day-to-day life without any trace of awkwardness, I can even whistle in public, which is a big social step.

But listen, just for you, I’m willing to risk my contentedness and put myself into these cringey scenarios. So I popped in Kirby and the Forgotten Land and had a spin through it, and do you know what, I think we have a game on our hands here. See, and this is probably unfair because I haven’t yet explored all of Kirby’s cornucopia of games – he’d swallow me up if I did – but there’s only so many times you can run through a twee grass level and beat up Whispy Woods at the end before it all starts to get a little unamusing. It was a game you’d let your little sister play, while you, the ever-hardcore gamer, went off to get melted by pros on online shooters. 

Finally though, Kirby is past that all of that. The little chap has grown up, maybe even gotten to an age where nothing embarrasses him anymore. Forgotten Land is still easy as pie, mind you, even on the harder difficulty called Wild Mode, wildly misnamed if we’re honest. But who’d be bothered with a difficult Kirby game? I told you, Nintendo fans, we’re walking contradictions. Just so long as we aren’t walking cats.

It’s not the open world of BOTW or even the open-end of Mario Odyssey, but you’ve got a decent selection of fully 3D levels here that all look pretty nice. It may be true that previous Kirby games had more copy abilities, so you’ll just have to get over the fact that Kirby won’t use a yo-yo in this game, but you can upgrade your abilities twice each and they all look great, lots of variety in the design.

It’s fun – that’s right, fun – to track down the collectible items and coins you need for these upgrades as well, and you’ll make use of all of them. It’s not just a float to the end jobby either, this game. In fact, you’ll rarely float as Kirby at all. Moreso you’ll be consuming, almost possessing, entire large objects like cars and fridges, and exploring nooks & crannies while completing certain tasks to find Waddle Dees. There’s a great impetus to finding the little Waddle Dees too because they’ll be busy rebuilding their entire town, which will become full of amenities for you to explore.

That’s it then, we’ve found a Kirby game worthy of modern hardware, a game with some substance behind it (several hours of play, more if you want to get everything), with nice graphics, impressive music, and a breakaway from tradition – no more sameyness. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a game comfortable in its own skin. And better than that, playing Kirby isn’t horribly embarrassing anymore.

3 March 2023

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s