There’s not much to Kirby’s Dream Buffet, the latest outing of Nintendo’s pink, orb-shaped mascot. But when it costs just £13.49, that’s to be expected.
A party game designed to be played with up to eight players, Kirby’s Dream Buffet puts players in control of their own Kirby. You’ll challenge each other in races and minigames, with the goal to be the fastest, fattest, happiest Kirby by the end of it all. And honestly? You’ll have fun doing so – but it’s all over pretty quickly.
The main draw of Kirby’s Dream Buffet is in its Gourmet Grand Prix mode, and if you jump straight into a online match, this is where you’ll find yourself. Here, you’ll engage in four different modes: two races, a random minigame and an end-game ‘battle royale’. Though you should take that term loosely: since there’s only ever four players on screen, it’s hardly an all-out free-for-all. Still, attempting to roll, bash and spin other Kirbys off the playing field is entertaining enough.
The races will see you roll your way down a food-themed course. Several are available, and which one you get will be random, although they’re all wonderfully designed. If there’s one thing Kirby games always get right it’s their cute and colourful aesthetic, and Kirby’s Dream Buffet is no different. Just be prepared to be a bit hungry when you’re done playing. Perhaps you’ll find yourself whizzing along delicious iced cakes, or jumping on fried eggs in frying pans. The races are undoubtedly the highlight of the experience, and remind us of a food-oriented Fall Guys. With a Kirby twist, of course.
The ultimate goal of any mode of Kirby’s Dream Buffet is to collect the most berries, and winning the races will give you a big head start in that. You see, at the end of each course, three cakes are waiting. Jump in the biggest, and you’ll net 50 berries. The second and third will give you 20 and 10, respectively. Finish last? No berries for you.
The minigame, sandwiched between two races when playing Gourmet Grand Prix, is also randomly-generated, although we’ve never had to do anything other than collect as many berries as possible. There may be some hazards to avoid, like falling objects that will squash you, but the minigames are so short that they have little to no bearing on the player standing. If you finished the previous race first, you’re likely still going to be first, put it that way.
It’s the final mode, Battle Royale, which can change everything. This two-minute long free-for-all tasks you with, well, being a nuisance. Along with trying to collect berries, you’ll want to stop your opponents doing so, and that means using a range of power-ups to knock them off the course. It’s a standard multiplayer mode which we’ve all experienced before in some form or another, so it’s hardly original. But it is fun, and the range of power-ups on offer – which change Kirby into a rolling doughnut, a speeding fireball and a tornado, amongst other things – are entertaining.
Every time you play, you’ll earn points that build a ‘Gourmet Rank’. Each time you level up, you’ll unlock new rewards, such as new outfits or colours for Kirby, or even new minigames, songs and decorations for the game’s home screen. What we’re particularly impressed with is that you’ll earn rewards no matter how you play. Even if you’re playing solo against bots, you’ll still be earning Gourmet Rank, and so however you prefer to play, you’ll still be rewarded. Not enough online-focused games do this, so it’s great to see.
If you decide to play locally, either by yourself, or with couch co-op buddies, you can jump into a Gourmet Grand Prix, or you can opt for a single race, single minigame or single Battle Royale. You still can’t choose which minigame or track you find yourself on though – it’s still randomly selected for you – which sort-of makes giving you a choice pointless. Still, if you only want to play for a couple of minutes at a time, the option is there.
For those who prefer to play solo, the CPU can be adjusted, with four different difficulty settings available. On ‘Sweet’, the easiest setting, you should have no problem winning repeatedly. But on ‘Extra Spicy’, the hardest difficulty, you might still have a chance at winning the races, but come the Battle Royale mode, you’ll be battered left, right and centre.
And, if you really want to get the most out of Kirby’s Dream Buffet, you might want to resort to playing by yourself, or at least locally with friends. We’ve encountered various issues with the online mode, ranging from crashes just before it loads to extreme slowdown/lag, rendering the game unplayable. It doesn’t happen every time, but when it does, it’s frustrating. It’s hardly ideal for a game designed to be multiplayer-first.
If you can overlook the network issues, Kirby’s Dream Buffet is a sweet little party game that will keep you coming back for more. It looks fantastic, and while its gameplay doesn’t offer much variety, it’s the sort of tried-and-tested multiplayer competition that never gets old. For its budget asking price of £13.49/$14.99, you can’t really ask for much more. Well, other than a more reliable online mode.