All is well for Kirby and friends, at least up until a spaceship crashes and interrupts their lovely picnic. In Kirby: Return to Dreamland, our rosy friend returns to his roots and is ready to suck up some new abilities. Kirby took a break from inhaling enemies in Kirby's Epic Yarn, but his suction abilities are a force to be reckoned with in his latest outing. During our last demo at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, we spent some time as the loveable pink fluff, and our three companions had the option to play as King Dedede, Meta Knight, or Waddle Dee. We learned in our most recent demo that anyone can play as Kirby, so when you make that return to Dreamland, you can choose to tag along as a different-colored clone.
There are benefits to playing as the other characters, though, because they are always armed with a weapon. Kirby's skills rely primarily on the unique abilities that he can steal from enemies, which are represented by way of a fun hat. But if you somehow happen to lose it, you may need to rely on your friends to get you through obstacles instead of chasing down another enemy to get your powers back. Working together always makes things more interesting, but it's not like New Super Mario Bros. Wii where it gets harder with more players. In Kirby: Return to Dreamland, the camera is always focused on the first player, and if others happen to get left behind, they'll get warped back onscreen instead of getting pushed off. There should be no unfortunate accidents this time around, and your lives are shared. Players can drop in and out with the push of a button.
The goal of the game is to help the alien Magolor find all the missing pieces of his wrecked ship. As you go through the levels, you'll find energy gears that will unlock more content within Magalor's spaceship. We hopped around different areas to play with various power-ups and were encouraged to inhale as much as we could. In secret areas, a moving wall forces you to keep pressing forward, but you can push it back a little by spitting things at it. By shaking the Wii Remote while Kirby is sucking, Kirby can perform a power suction that grabs almost everything onscreen. Spitting out blocks, your friends, wayward enemies, and other indigestible items at the moving wall will push it back even further, giving you more time. Sucking up your friends is always an option--or something that just happens because they're in the way. They won't receive any damage, and if anything, they become useful projectiles. Your lives are shared, but you each have to keep an eye on your individual health bars. Whenever someone picks up a healing item, you can hug your friends immediately to share the boost in health.
Some of the copy abilities that we played with included the leaf power, where we slapped and punched foes with a fist full of vines and leaves. Another elemental ability let us harness the power of water, which let us surf the waves when we dashed, and there was a cute move where we hovered in the air by spitting out a never-ending stream of water. There are also enemies that don't have any useful powers to steal, but if you copy a sleeping enemy, you'll also gain the ability to take a nap. When you're not cloning others for your super skills, you can gain special powers for a limited time via power-ups. One monster flame power-up had us summoning a giant flaming dragon that would swoop in and mow down trees. Another power gave us temporary control of a giant orb that basically took out anything it touched. Many of these power-ups are carefully placed, so you know that there's some secret area within the vicinity. Our favorite, though, had to be the spiked shoe, which was similar to Kuribo's shoe in Super Mario 3, but instead of being light and bouncy, it was heavy and stiff. You have to time your jumps carefully to get enough air, but it's always entertaining to hop around in a massive boot.
What often makes Kirby games so endearing are the little details. Though he may not morph into a graceful dolphin this time when he hits the water, he does put on a pair of swimming goggles and attack foes with air bubbles. However, when he's up on the surface, he trades his goggles in for a circular floatie and practices his flutter kick. It's these little touches that make Kirby special, and you can share that experience with friends when the game is released in October.