Up to four Kirbys can play in this bright and colorful family-friendly dreamscape.
In Kirby's Return to Dream Land, Kirby and friends help a new character known as Magolor, piece together his ship, Lor Starcutter, which has crash-landed on PopStar. Nintendo gave me the chance to see levels in the first two worlds, Cookie Country and Raisin Ruins -- real levels this time, not the amalgamated ones shown at the trade shows. Choosing stages works like most previous Kirby games, with doors to entry, while the general game play is most like Kirby Super Star.
While the powers work like in Super Star, some abilities have additional powers. For instance, in Stone form, Kirby now has an up attack where he turns into a rocky fist that delivers a powerful uppercut. I was happy to see the various rock forms, such as the muscle man, preserved as well. The new powers are fun additions, as well, such as Water Kirby's ability to surf on a wave.
As recently revealed by NOE, all four players can play as Kirby if they choose, though you can't play as multiple supporting characters and only one can hold an ultra power. The camera follows only the first player, and others are automatically transported if they get too far away, which can be abused strategically. There was one part of a stage where a key must be taken across moving platforms to its corresponding door. When you're holding an item, you can't fly, but I was able to fly along the top of the level and teleport my partner across to reach the door.
And since the life pool is shared, it can be abused by the drop-in/drop-out nature of multiplayer. Players 2 - 4 can drop out right before death, and pop back in. I'm not really sure why they bother with lives at all in Kirby games like this.
I saw one new ultra power, Flare Beam, the first demonstrated power to be controllable after triggering. Essentially, it is the same as Pikachu's Volt Tackle Final Smash from Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Nintendo is still keeping the antagonist under wraps, as well as the significance of the monochrome stages, portals to which are hidden behind star-studded blocks breakable by the ultra powers. In the monochrome stages, bird-like bosses appear with attacks reminiscent of Dynablade. The first one, who was egg-shaped, is called Sphere Doomer.
Overall, the game doesn't stray too far from traditions. For example, Whispy Woods is again the boss of the first world. The timed jump bonus after completing a stage returns from Kirby's Adventure.
Like most Kirby games, Return to Dream Land includes unlockables; these are housed in Lor Starcutter, and opened by collecting its 120 lost gears. The only room I got to see featured time-limited challenge stages revolving around the use of Kirby's powers. I played through the first stage, demonstrating my sword prowess and collecting stars. You have to react quickly and the stage forces choices where you must be careful not to block your own path to the stars. Gold, silver, and bronze medals are awarded for meeting score goals.
From what I've seen so far, Kirby's Return to Dream Land is an apt title, as it represents a return to Kirby's roots. Though some are more fond of his more experimental outings, Kirby shows that he can do both. Return to Dream Land looks to be a solid traditional Kirby game, particularly suited for family play. It arrives on October 24 in North America.