Kirby: Squeak Squad

The DS has definitely brought about a renaissance of 2D platformer goodness. Unlike the previous Kirby’s Canvas Curse, which was built with the innovative touch controls in mind, Squeak Squad is a throwback to the old school Kirby action we all know and love.

Facts and Features:

  • Players can expect all the floating, jumping and battling of a classic Kirby game, but now they can even mix abilities and recovery items using the touch screen. With more than 25 upgradeable abilities, including new ones like Animal and Bubble, Kirby will have the tools he needs to defeat his toughest foes yet.
  • The abilities themselves now affect the environment as well as foes. Players burn trees and grasses with the Fire Ability or freeze water with the Ice Ability as they hunt down every last treasure chest in eight huge worlds. Tons of unlockables await, from music tracks to Kirby colors to secret stages and abilities, so players must explore every nook and cranny.
  • This game also features three multiplayer sub-games for up to four players, either via DS Download Play or Multicard LAN play. Players test their reaction speed in Speedy Teatime, bump and battle in Smash Ride and aim for snacks in Treasure Shot.

You Are What You Eat
The premise of the game is simple: nefarious thieves have swiped Kirby’s strawberry shortcake right from under his… does Kirby actually have a nose? At any rate, it’s up to Kirby to get his treasure back from the Squeak Squad, a band of rats who have been hording treasure all over Dreamland.

A look into the belly of the beast, er, puffball.

The mechanics should be familiar to fans of the series. Kirby runs, jumps, floats and eats his way through levels. Eating certain enemies allows Kirby to assimilate their powers. The dual screens allow for some unique twists to the formula. The touch screen represents Kirby’s belly, in which you can store up to five powers, items or treasures. Within the belly you can tap an item to use it or combine items to create new and more potent results. Because Kirby’s stomach is limited to five items at once, you can drag items back up his throat where he can discard them.

Throughout the levels treasure boxes are hidden which Kirby must carry in his belly to the goal to unlock. These treasures range from the useless (puzzle pieces of artwork you can view in the collection screen) to the helpful (extra HP containers and permanent power upgrades). Also found in these treasure chests are keys to hidden levels. Finding these chests in every level is where the real challenge lies; as simply running straight through the levels offers the bare minimum of difficulty. You can probably beat the game within a few hours, but collecting all 120 treasures and unlocking all of the hidden levels will probably double your playtime. Throw in a boss at the end of every world and the occasional mini-boss in between and you have a pretty good idea of what Squeak Squad has in store.

As an added bonus there are three multiplayer games and a fourth hidden game. These can be played with a single cart via download play and offer a fun but ultimately shallow diversion. There is a cake eating contest, where players have to tap cupcakes as a dome is quickly raised and lowered. The second game is a catapulting range, and the third is a “king of the hill” contest, where the goal is to knock your opponents off of a platform. These have the depth of an average Mario Party mini-game and might keep you and a friend entertained for the duration of a bus trip. Maybe.

Kirby’s not big on sharing when it comes to cake.

Like the game play, the sound is also filled with retro vibes. The music is a mix of new and classic Kirby themes. The best that can be said about the music and sound effects is that I didn’t turn down the volume.

Graphics are clean, bright and very colorful. Characters animate smoothly, and while the levels are definitely a throwback to the tiled architecture of yesteryears, there is plenty of variety to be seen.

Eat It or Ditch It?
Squeak Squad is good but not great. I enjoyed my quick romp once more through Dreamland, but the lack of any genuine difficulty really detracts from the game. Sure there was the odd treasure chest that took some head scratching to reach, but those moments were few and far between. Fans of Kirby will relish the chance to play a traditional Kirby platformer, but what’s there is fleeting. Like the candy colored landscape of the game, Squeak Squad is sweet but ultimately unsatisfying.

— Weston Bass

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