A sweet escape for platformer fans
Kirby's enjoying just another day in the idyllic Dreamland and about ready to have at a scrumptious little slice of Strawberry Shortcake. Delicious, right? Unfortunately some trouble making rodents known as The Squeaks want in on this cake, and they're not about sharing. The game follows Kirby chasing down these little nibblers in an attempt to regain his lost confection, doing battle with them for various other treasures along the way.
Whether you're floating around obstacles, copying powers, or battling a giant walrus who shakes his ass at you, there has always been something that strikes right at the inner-child. The characters are all brightly colored, and most of your enemies are smiling right up until you condemn them to whatever dark void dwells deep within Kirby's insides. Only the most nefarious of evil villains forgo the cuteness, instead preferring a more childish nightmare like ominous black orbs or evil guys in cloaks. These cutesy themes won't attract your resident Modern Warfare fanatic from his shoot-fest, but it's undeniable that combined with a brilliant artistic direction, the Kirby series brandishes one of the best artistic directions in gaming. Squeak Squad proves to be the best of them pushing gorgeous 2-D art behind brilliantly animated characters. Coupled with the overly infectious music, some original and most pulling from the franchise's catalog of memorable tunes, Kirby is the kind of game you can play over and over again. It always aims to smile, allowing you to escape to a wonderful, sugar-fevery, world where even your enemies wave hello.
The gameplay is nothing new, but is tight as ever. Kirby floats, he inhales, and he copies abilities for his own use. Kirby's powers are surprisingly vast; he breathes fire, wields a sword, and spins about as the most adorable tornado ever. A couple new powers, like Animal, compliment old favorites like UFO, which hasn't been seen since the copy mechanic was first introduced in Kirby's Adventure for the NES (and later remade on GBA as Nightmare in Dreamland).
The big twist on this game is an interesting one in theory, but comes up just a tad short in execution. Kirby can now store up to 5 bubbled items, food, and powers in his belly which can be selected via the touch screen. This is also where the Pink Power-puff stores Treasure chests collected throughout the game, up to 3 per level. It does make things somewhat of a hindrance to have to juggle items around and make room for treasure chests or favored power-ups, but it also adds a bit of depth to the Kirby gameplay that it's never seen before. The actual problem lies in the fact that to access your powers you have to tap them, and that requires using the stylus because the DS doesn't recognize fingers as well. And if you're trying to combine power-up's to get a random one, or trying to combine little collectible Kirby's that grant you a 1-up, you HAVE to use the stylus. It's a terribly minor gripe, but considering it was their big, fancy new mechanic it could have used some work. Preferably the ability to cycle between items with L and R and use another button to do something with them.
The highlight of the game, aside from trademark presentation, is that each level ends with a little race with The Squeaks to get the big treasure chest. They're set up in numerous ways, and each one makes for a unique style boss-encounter that you don't often see in platforming games. Sometimes one of the Squeak's already has the chest and is en-route to his hideout, and you have to cut him off and wrestle the chest from him. Sometimes the both of you are racing forward to grab the chest, and on a rare occasion, they've already got it in their hideout. If you fail to keep up with them, the last chance to get the chest requires you breaking into their home and messing them up in traditional boss-fight fashion.
Other features include being able to unlock color-patterns for your Kirby and bottom screen, bonus modes, and a few four-player mini-games. The mini-games are nothing particularly special, but a nice distraction if you've got friends around. Only one DS is needed.
Kirby's Squeak Squad shows off what the standard platforming games do best: present a fun, albeit mostly easy trek across a gorgeous and imaginative world, solving light puzzles to acquire items. It's relatively short, though packing a few neat features like a non-stop speed run. It's more evolutionary than revolutionary, but it's still a sweet feast for any fans of solid 2-D platformers.