Kirby's Dreamland

One thing that has always characterized the Kirby games is their simplicity, and perhaps none exemplify that trait more than the pink puffball's first outing, Kirby's Dreamland for the Game Boy. The game's graphics are simple, the sound is simple, the music is simple, and the story is simple. And yet, all these things work to the game's advantage and give it a unique charm. It could be said that on the original Game Boy, simplicity was the best policy, and in that sense Kirby's Dreamland utilizes the hardware well.

The problem with this is that the game never attempts to break free from these limitations, and remains underwhelming. The level design is as simple as the graphics, the game is very short, very easy, and the whole thing just feels rather shallow. The level design is extremely flat, usually represented by nothing more than a straight path peppered with enemies. There are several secret areas to be discovered, but their entrances tend to be rather obvious. Futhermore, these hidden areas have nothing to offer other than health refills, short-cuts and extra lives. These things seem quite unnecessary, given the game's lack of difficulty.

A big problem with the design of the game is that you can float over most obstacles without much worry. Bottomless pits? Not a problem. Not even enemies can get in your way, as you can float right over them to the goal. There is a second, "Extra Game" mode to be unlocked which fixes this somewhat. Enemies are beefed up, and are placed more deviously to block your path, while bosses are much more of a challenge. Unfortunately, the higher difficulty brings to light some other problems that aren't apparent during the normal game. For example, the floaty and occasionally unresponsive controls aren't a problem when the game is very easy, but it's a different story when the screen is filled with enemies and projectiles. Even with these issues, and while certainly more difficult than the normal game, the extra mode cannot be said to very challenging. The whole game can be beaten in less than an hour.

Kirby is even missing his trademark copy ability, which wouldn't debut until Kirby's Adventure on the NES. Sure, there is still Kirby's ability to suck up enemies and obstacles and shoot them at each other. It's a unique and odd way to attack, but while it can be fun to play around with, it's never utilized to its full potential here. Aside from a couple of memorable boss fights, the game hardly does anything with it.

The game does remain entertaining on replays, bolstered somewhat by the Extra Game and other unlockable options that let you adjust maximum health and life stock. In the end, it does little to elevate what is otherwise a rather subpar game. There is a certain appeal to the challenge of beating the game on a single life, with only a single point of health, but it doesn't obscure the fact that the core game leaves much to be desired. It's a passable diversion, but Kirby's Dreamland is too simple and easy to engage the player in any significant way.