I haven’t had much success buying new Nintendo DS games for my soon-to-be 5-year-old son. He wasn’t able to handle Pac ‘N’ Roll, and gave up on DK Jungle Climber rather quickly as well. There aren’t any upcoming releases that look like they’d be suitable for him, so I decided to go retro and buy a used title instead. What I ended up with was Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land, which came out way back in 2002 — for Game Boy Advance. (Remember that Nintendo DS systems have an additional slot for GBA cartridges, so there was no problem getting this title to work.)
My son already has Kirby Squeak Squad, a newer title in the series, so he was somewhat familiar with the gameplay in Nightmare in Dream Land. In this game, the player controls Kirby, who must try to recover the stolen Rod of Dreams, without which, no one in Dream Land can dream. My son didn’t quite get the back story, but it doesn’t matter. He knows that he basically has to battle various enemies as he moves through the different stages.
As with Squeak Squad, Kirby can inhale/swallow his enemies in order to copy their powers and special abilities. On his own, Kirby can only walk, float, swim, and jump, so it really helps to be able to get those extra powers.
The gameplay is fairly simple, making Nightmare in Dream Land perfect for my 5-year-old. Kirby can get hit six times by enemies before actually dying, so each turn lasts a very long time. Plus, there are always chances to score additional lives, meaning that this game is just about as easy as they come. The graphics aren’t that great because the title is relatively old, but my son doesn’t care about that.
Overall, I think Kirby Nightmare in Dream Land is an excellent option for those of you with younger children. I bought this game used from an Amazon.com reseller for about $14.99 + shipping (compared to the outrageous $59.99 price tag I’ve seen for brand-new, unopened versions). I didn’t get a box or a manual with the game, but it doesn’t matter. It works fine and my son was able to figure out how to play with no problems, so I definitely recommend this one!