The cute pink puffball has already treated Nintendo Switch gamers to the excellent Kirby and the Forgotten Land, easily one of the best adventures in the series yet. HAL Laboratory isn’t done yet, however, spoiling fans with another series entry in Kirby’s Dream Buffet, a bite-sized spin-off focused on rolling the shrunken lead character around landscapes littered with cakes, donuts and every other sweet treat imaginable. Has Kirby spun his way onto another winning adventure?
Normally having yourself shrunk down to the size of an ant would be an alarming and potentially life-threatening experience (have you seen Honey I Shrunk the Kids?), yet in Kirby’s case, it means getting to roll about cakes the size of houses. Kirby’s Dream Buffet is a party-esque title that’s half Mario Kart-style race, half Super Monkey Ball rolling and half arena combat game… can a game have three halves?
The game’s main attraction is its Gourmet Grand Prix mode, a fast-paced four-round competition with the winner being the Kirby who eats the most strawberries by the end. Rounds one and three consist of races, point A to B courses filled with obstacles, shortcuts and strawberries aplenty. Round two meanwhile is a short twenty-second mini-game taking place on a small arena. Here players will jump into cups or break boxes to grab more strawberries. The final round is the Battle Royale, where as well as collecting even more strawberries, you’ll be doing your best to knock your opponents off the arena by charging and using an assortment of power-ups (more on those in a moment).
The races are the real highlight, dizzyingly colourful and always exciting even when you’ve become familiar with their layout. What they might lack in difficulty, they make for in sheer fun. Tempting shortcuts dangle a bundle of strawberries for those up for taking the faster route while the finish line rewards fastest Kirby’s with stacks more. The mini-games are quick and simple the limited time rarely allowing for much in the way of position swapping when it comes to strawberries grabbed. The battle royale plays out rather similarly on an arena only with far more strawberries to grab and an emphasis on attacking using power-ups.
The power-ups all have a food theming to them. The donut for example will turn Kirby into a speeding donut, the cupcake will suck in any nearby strawberries with ease and the chocolate bar will send Kirby slamming down to the floor and creating a shockwave. They add an exciting element of chaos to the mix, the speedier power-ups are great in races while the more attack-heavy are used in the arena modes.
Every mode you play will earn you points toward your profile and every level reached will unlock goodies (of which there are many). Kirby’s Dream Buffet is an absolute… well, buffet when it comes to extras, everything from music to new colours and outfits for Kirby and even extra levels being thrown your way at a regular pace. It’s a great feeling and never feels like a grind which is hugely refreshing in today’s free-to-play heavy industry.
Unsurprisingly Kirby’s Dream Buffet is a game you’ll want to play with others. Online offers random and friend options, both of which prove great fun. The fact the game is so fast-paced and leaves little room for unnecessary downtime even between rounds makes it so addicting and inviting for one more short five-minute session. Weirdly, despite its heavy multiplayer angle, the game only offers a two-player split-screen option. It’s a huge shame because playing with a friend in the same room presents that same chaotic Mario Kart-style banter and with a full set of four would truly set the game alight. Sure, you can connect four Switches wireless, but really who is going to do that?
Another area the game suffers is in its quantity of levels. As much fun as the races are, you’ll quickly find yourself starting to cycle through the same stages over and over. The same can be said for the arena stages. It would have also been great to see some more gimmicks thrown in too. The few that do appear like sticky wall climbing syrup and skiddy ice lolly floors are neat but feel like they barely scratch the sweet surface. What’s here is still fun there’s no denying that, but with a few more ideas and extra stages added in, could have taken what may well wind up being a month or so distraction for some players into something you’ll return to throughout the year.
It goes without saying, but Kirby has never looked so delicious, every crumb of the game’s presentation basking in its food-based theming. The worlds themselves will see you racing around sweet donuts, bumping along strips of bacon and duking it out on giant cakes in the shape of Kirby’s face. It’s truly a delight to look at only let down by its moments of slowdown that can occur particularly during busier moments.
Funny, entertaining and charming, Kirby’s Dream Buffet is a delightful little package. Could it do with some more content? Sure. Is it odd you can’t play four-player split-screen? Definitely. But like the many delicious-looking treats it features, Kirby’s Dream Buffet is a short but ever so sweet time and something you’ll find yourself coming back to for one more bite.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo