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Kirby's Dream Land 2 (Game Boy) artwork

Kirby's Dream Land 2 (Game Boy) review

"Kirby eats and eats and eats, but his appetite is never satisfied. We've all had days like that."

If playing through Kirby's Dream Land 2 did nothing else for me, it at least successfully prompted me to reflect more upon my long-time love of Kirby's Adventure and everything that older title did to earn that affection.

Before I continue, I should probably note that this is not a horribly negative "DO NOT PLAY THIS!" indictment of Dream Land 2, which is a fun (if unremarkable) platform game for the original Game Boy. In fact, there are a number of elements from Adventure that made the leap two years into the future to be part of this 1995 game. Kirby is still a little marshmallow guy who's capable of eating nearly everything in sight, plus a good number of munched foes can be swallowed to grant him various abilities and a diligent player can discover there's a far more evil force behind the actions of the relatively benign King Dedede.

The same sense of magic and discovery didn't quite make the trip, though. Part of that is simply due to hardware. Adventure came out at the end of the NES lifespan and was one of the more beautiful games for that system, boasting bright colors and a variety of landscapes that often fluctuated wildly from section to section within the same level, matching the game's "dream world" vibe. While there was barely anything remotely difficult in that game, thanks in part to Kirby’s ability to absorb far more damage than the average old-school platform game hero, it was an experience to play it.

With the Game Boy's near-non-existent color palette, Dream Land 2 is just another game. While the levels do take place in different locations, it's honestly difficult for me to remember much about any of them other than that they reminded me of Adventure, only crunched down to portable size. Of course, by using the Super Game Boy add-on, I could sort of play this one in color. Each set of levels would get its own personal color, so a forest setting would be green and an underwater one would be blue. I mean, it's still far too plain to ever feel truly imaginative or fanciful, but it beats the pure blandness that looking at its original grayness provides.

Still, the game is in many ways a stripped-down version of Adventure, a condition that isn't helped by the limited number of skills Kirby acquires from defeated foes. There seems to be a smaller variety of foes scattered through the game's seven worlds, and fewer corresponding abilities. Some of my favorites from Adventure, such as the sword and beam attacks, can't be gained by inhaling enemies the way they could in the NES title. Instead, scattered throughout the game's levels are a trio of animal friends, which usually can be obtained by defeating mini-bosses. Each of them is somewhat useful on its own (the fish, for example, provides the best and most responsive control underwater), but truly shines when it alters the abilities you gain from monsters. When you acquire a special ability while riding an animal, it assumes a different form than it would if Kirby were solo. Using the Cutter with the fish almost made me feel I was utilizing a wave laser in a standard shooter. One of the hamster's attacks was reminiscent of my beloved beam attack, and so forth.

Except this addition to the formula isn't really all that it's cracked up to be, thanks to the way the animals essentially add a "give/take" system to the proceedings. They give Kirby more versatility to his attacks than the game's scant number of abilities would lead one to believe, but you're now in control of a much larger sprite on a small screen and that makes it easier to take damage. You also lose Kirby's helpful ability to simply inhale air and float over pits, enemies and other obstacles.

I rarely found myself using those animals, unless one was needed to obtain a secret Rainbow Drop. Each of the seven worlds contains one of these goodies, which you need to acquire in order to unlock the true final boss, hidden within a level. You generally need one or more specific abilities to grab it. A couple of them are genuinely tricky to find, requiring you to use certain animals at the right time in order to fight water currents or wind gusts and reach hidden rooms. Overall, I found the Rainbow Drop system to be more involving than Adventure's collection of hidden switches necessary to attain 100 percent completion, because finding a few of them proved to be a fun puzzle.

I'd also say that Dream Land 2's challenge level was more pleasing. While it’s not a particularly stiff test of my skill, at least this game isn't a total breeze to blast through. Enemies are fond of sprinting onto the screen from behind Kirby and that forces you to remain alert. Some of the mini-bosses, which arrive with increasing frequency the farther you get into the game, are pushovers. Others, such as the ninja, offer a surprising amount of resistance. Also, while many of the game's main bosses return from Adventure, a number of them (including Kracko the cloud and Dedede himself) have a few new tricks to ensure their battles don't completely feel like "been there, done that" scenarios.

Like I said at the beginning of this review, the game as a whole is unremarkable but fun. It offers the sort of experience that makes a perfect rainy day diversion, but I didn't fall in love with it like I did with Adventure and I can't see myself making a point to come back to it from time to time, as I do with that other title. I simply didn't find the same loving creativity on display that was evident in Adventure. On the occasions this one does break new ground (such as with the three animal friends), it feels more like a "one step forward, two steps back" endeavor. Still, for a handheld Kirby game, this one at least does a solid job of connecting all the dots, making it worthwhile for fans of the hungry little guy.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (May 09, 2014)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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