After 25 years, the Kirby universe has enough material to fill a Hyrule Historia-like compendium (hint, hint). Many games along the way have added little quirks and abilities to shake things up, but Kirby’s Blowout Blast takes a decidedly throwback approach by channelling the veteran hero’s first game.
Blowout Blast strips Kirby of copy abilities, giant mechs, animal companions, Air Ride machines, and any other trinkets gathered over the years, leaving only the inhale ability he first strode onto the stage with in Kirby’s Dream Land. Those who played Kirby’s 3D Rumble in Kirby: Planet Robobot will feel familiar with Blowout Blast, as it is largely a deluxe expansion of that minigame.
Whereas 3D Rumble took place in arena-like stages, those in Blowout Blast are more linear, beginning-to-end setups. Kirby can inhale enemies along the way and spit them out at others, and inhaling multiple enemies will increase the power of the attack. Inhaling enough enemies will turn Kirby into a lumbering land-dirigible of destruction, capable of taking out swaths of enemies in point-racking combos. That’s not only satisfying; it’s important.
High scores are the gears that open up all Blowout Blast has to offer. Time, damage, combos and coins all factor into a final score whether in a normal stage or a level-ending boss fight. Scores translate into trophies, and earning gold or platinum in all the four or five stages of each level unlocks more challenging EX counterparts. Earn at least gold in all of these stages, and a mysterious Secret Path unlocks.
The score element encourages replayability and adds motivation, which is good because the stages themselves don’t have a lot of variety to make them irresistible on their own. They definitely look gorgeous in 3D, with colourful backdrops and scenery inspired by levels in Dream Land, but they also feel somewhat mechanically constructed. Barriers pop up and enemies appear lined up in ways that make them obviously set up for scoring points and running gauntlets. The enemies are also mainly basic and have very few gimmicks to them, although everyone’s favourite terror - Scarfy - is used to good effect to make one second-guess what they’re about to try inhaling.
The journey feels less like an adventure and more like a shooting gallery, or if GLaDOS had invaded Dream Land and decided to test the weaponization of candy-coloured puffs. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as stages never take longer than 5 minutes and don’t overstay their welcome. It just feels a bit more contained and subdued than many other Kirby titles.
Fans of Kirby will be happy to see that good effort was made to tickle the nostalgia receptors of the brain. In addition to themed levels taking after Dream Land stages, bosses from the game come back to play. This includes Lololo and Lalala, who have deserved more love, but doesn’t include attack blimp Kabula, who remains deserving more. Instead, Kracko Jr. and Kracko are bosses of separate stages, which is disappointing.
Meanwhile, Kirby amiibo and Planet Robobot save data unlock statues and extra remixes of Kirby tunes to play in the main hub of Blowout Blast, which strikes the balance well between a good bonus and something you wouldn’t be crushed to not have. Many tracks from Dream Land also have remixes featuring in levels, which is far from unheard of in the series but still lovely.
Kirby’s Blowout Blast leans back upon the series’ roots for its gameplay, which could be seen as both a positive and a hindrance. The game has solid controls, is beautiful and easy to pick up, play, and replay. It's also just a bit too simple in its construction, and could have benefited from some surprises within the main stages to spice things up. There is still plenty of Kirby love for collectors not to regret the digital purchase and younger players will likely have a blast, but others not fully into the score-chasing element might find the experience slightly deflated by the IP's high standards.