Kirby’s appetite for desserts (and pretty much everything else) knows no bounds, nor does mine for games starring the iconic pink sphere. He’s earned it too, this being his 30th Anniversary year and all. That’s about all the reason you need to set up something like Kirby’s Dream Buffet, the latest spin-off and first title since the fantastic 3D adventure that was Kirby and the Forgotten Land.
By taking up a Dream Fork, Kirby’s shrunken down enough that all those desserts are now giant, frosted playgrounds and super sized when it comes to snacking. More Kirbys then immediately do the same (because why wouldn’t they?) to turn this into an all out food fight over every last strawberry on the seemingly never ending table.
A New Kind of Gourmet Race
With that all in place, Dream Buffet is incredibly easy to get into and understand. All modes have you controlling Kirby in a spherical form, only able to roll and jump by default. Your goal in each match is to devour every strawberry in sight, ideally becoming the chonkiest orb of snacky happiness by the end. Three other Kirbys are out to do the same though, making this a free-for-all-you-can-eat occasion whether you’re playing solo, or via local or online multiplayer.
These fruitful feasts are done in three different types of matches. Races are just that, having the Kirbys (and a few Waddle Dees for good measure) rolling through a dessert themed dash to the finish line, with platters of strawberries waiting for the fastest puffball. Minigames are a bit more varied, tasking you with twenty second bursts of either enemy bashing or strawberry collecting in more closed off arenas. The finale of every match is a Battle Royale, where the Kirbys face off to not just gather up strawberries but to knock each other off the stage to steal their treats for themselves. Whoever weighs in as the biggest, heaviest, roundest boi by the end is the winner!
And… that’s it. There are some variations that come into play based on which randomly selected stages or arenas pop up, but ultimately you’re in the same race-minigame-race-battle loop each time. These seven or so minute loops are as repetitive as they are adorable, and clearly cut from the same cloth as Fall Guys. That game has the benefit of being both free and service based, and for having a higher variety of stages in its rotation. The larger player count also adds to the atmosphere and late game tension. By comparison, you can see all that Dream Buffet has to offer in a single weekend, and the “extra” Waddle Dees rolling around are negligible, but please don’t tell them I said that.
Copy Abilities are here, of course, but have gotten a makeover to fit the theme. Now Copy Food Abilities, they take familiar Kirby powers (like Wheel and Stone) but give them a tasty twist. Kirby instead becomes a rolling donut or a chocolate bar to crash down on opponents, fitting the vibe of Dream Buffet while adding in an “item” mechanic.
What gameplay ideas are here may just be a nibble, but it’s full of flavor. After a few games (or some Free Rolling practice) the movement makes sense, even with different surfaces (ice cream is slippery, syrup is sticky, etc.) in the mix. The one thing that doesn’t seem to track when it comes to racing is bumping into other Kirbys. While ostensibly added size gives you more speed and heft, when at a level playing field those physics are more of a dice roll.
Battle Royale matches are more clear in that regard, mainly because sizes are more established and defined, but here a new problem comes forth. The multitude of Copy Food Abilities that end up in the match as come from behind mechanics – especially Needle – can come off as excessive. Imagine the rubber banding of Mario Kart, but in an enclosed arena and also you can snatch victory away by becoming the Blue Shell for a bit. Is it fitting for this kind of experience? Absolutely. But it does somewhat invalidate the earlier rounds. I’ve gone from last to first, first to last, and everything in between all thanks to this madness; and the format plays into that repetition.
Delicious Times, Precious Memories
Now, if it were just the above described gameplay carrying them the experience would dry up pretty quickly. Thankfully, I’m a lifelong Kirby fan, and this spinoff knows exactly how to cater to my tastes.
As you play you’ll raise your Gourmet Rank, with a reward being given every time you level up ala Kirby Fighters 2. These include colors, costumes, stages, and music; and the vast majority of them are referential to the Kirby series as a whole. These include the ability to style Kirby as his main Dream Friends, but also song choices that dive deep into obscure corners of the franchise. I’m talking Kirby’s Pinball Land and Kirby’s Block Ball tracks, and even dedicated nods to remakes like Nightmare in Dream Land and Super Star Ultra. The fact this game’s yellow color shouts out Keeby, a “character” that hasn’t been referenced since Dream Course, is such a chef’s kiss starter to what this list has to offer.
Put another way, when it comes to series-wide fanservice, this is the best entry in the series this side of Kirby Star Allies. I’ll take Forgotten Land over it as a whole, but I’m also a sucker for Dream Land 2 references.
Speaking of, you’ll find even more in Character Treats. These are rewarded after matches based on what place you took, and are akin to keychains or stickers from past Kirby titles. With 256 to (randomly) gather up, they’re another slice of decorative completion and fond memories that Dream Buffet has going for itself.
That all said, referential nods and deep cut music choices aren’t enough to make this a must-play for the series. As a pick up and play game based on online competition, I’ve been having a great time with Dream Buffet. I can also recognize it’s not holding me the same way something like Super Kirby Clash Deluxe did with its mobile game sensibilities and stage-based rankings, let alone a core Kirby game. Perhaps there will be a second course of updates on the way, but I have to assume what’s been served is all there’ll be.
You could do a lot worse for $14.99, and even if it boiled down to just the last week or so I spent with the game I’d call it money well spent. I just also see the strawberry-laden finish line at the end of this size-shifted sub game, and it’s coming up fast. Still, other than being brief and fairly repetitive, you won’t hear me complaining about a cute Kirby game. If you’re not a fan of the series, feel free to knock another point off of this arbitrary number rating. The biggest take-away, though, is that this was a sweet time full of the franchise’s dreamy flavor that bodes well for continued Kirby 30th Anniversary celebrations.Leave a Comment
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: August 17, 2022
Developer: HAL Laboratory