Price: $3.99 Size: 34 blocks First released: August 1992
Before he could swallow enemies and copy their powers, Kirby was a fairly unremarkable puffball. In this inaugural game that kicked off one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises, Kirby lacks his usual Mega Man-like trait and instead attacks by sucking down baddies and spitting them back out (or “right back at ya,” as the cartoon said). He can also blow out a bit of air as a short-range projectile, but in general, this is a far less capable Kirby than you’re probably used to.
That said, the game itself is still a joy to play after all these years. The levels are straightforward and easy, making this a fun, relaxing game that still has a bit more content to it than a similarly priced iPhone app. Even newcomers could blow through its four side-scrolling levels in 30 minutes, and experienced players could shave even more time off. So yeah, it’s short and easy, but there’s also a hard mode that, as you may expect, makes the game substantially more difficult and worth a second play through.
Brevity is actually one of Dreamland’s biggest strengths. The quick trip through each smartly designed, bouncily active level is so soothing it could probably register as a genuine stress reliever, and the impressive soundtrack makes the experience even more enjoyable. I’ve gone through it about three times since its 3DS launch, and will likely play it even more as the year wears on – it’s one of those simple games that has no barrier for entry and is pleasing each time through. However, there isn’t much in the way of secrets or replay incentives (other than the aforementioned pleasant feelings), so if you’re hoping for Mario-like exploration or surprises, they’re not here.
Above: The credits music, probably the best song in the game
It’s also worthwhile as a historical note, as this is not just Kirby’s first appearance, but also the only time he’s been white instead of the traditional pink. Even though his creator (Smash Bros’ Masahiro Sakurai) intended Kirby to be pink, the US box art (which is portrayed in the 3DS eShop) depicts him as white, in keeping with the black and white graphics of the original Game Boy. So you have a white, non-power-absorbing Kirby – really strange to think about in 2011.
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