Kirby: Squeak Squad review
I remember my first exposure to the Kirby series. My brothers had just gotten Game Boys to make a trip across the country. Not one of the pocket ones or colors, mind you – the original huge hunk of portable gaming power. 4 AA batteries and a whopping 4 colors on the screen were all they had to use. One of the games they got shortly after was the original Game Boy Kirby game. I, of course, stole the Game Boy sometimes to play it (see, I got a Game Gear instead). The game was quite fun and a unique take on a platformer – the whole idea of sucking up your enemies and swallowing them or spitting them back out at your opponents was really cool.
The next game in the series appeared on the NES – Kirby’s Adventure. This one set the stage for many future Kirby games, introducing the ability to swallow enemies and gain powers. See that guy with a sword over there? Yeah, suck him up, swallow him and now Kirby will have a sword. You could even mix two powers and get a random new power. The variety in abilities Kirby could get and the bright, colorful levels made for another fun adventure on Nintendo’s aging NES platform. However, the Kirby series didn’t end there. Over the years, there have been many spinoffs for the series, including the first DS showing for Kirby, Canvas Curse. Finally, though, we get a traditional Kirby game on the Nintendo DS – Squeak Squad. Does it still have the magic that the old Kirby games had?
Kirby Squeak Squad is, on the surface, a straight up, old school 2D platformer. You aren’t going to roam around a 3D world here, folks. The world is bright and colorful and has the classic Kirby charm, too. Cutesy enemies, no gore of any kind and fun powers all make for a slight variation on the traditional sidescroller formula. Something new added this time around, though, are the treasure chests. They are what the whole game revolves around, too – the first stage starts off like you would expect of a Kirby game, including a faceoff with your normal nemesis, King Deedeedee. You’ll soon find out, though, that you have to deal with a new nemesis this time around – the Squeak Squad. See, this band of rats (no, really – they’re rats) is trying to collect all these treasure chests. If you grab one of the large blue ones, they’ll attack you too. The story really is pretty loose overall and is more of an excuse to have yet another Kirby game.
Thankfully, the original design ages well. The controls even remain virtually the same. Kirby still runs around, hitting up still takes off for a float and landing lets you blow a puff of air. B still sucks enemies (though now, there can be larger enemies that require you to hold B for a bit to suck them up) and down still swallows. For enemies that don’t have a power, you’ll just finish the enemy off by swallowing. For those with powers, you’ll gain said power. Getting rid of said power is done with a quick press of select. The only really new mechanic here is Kirby’s stomach. Any powerups you find in a bubble can be stores in Kirby’s stomach – it can hold 5 items. These items can be combined with similar item types to create new items (you can, say, combine two powers to get a random new power) and can be spit out by using the stylus to “regurgitate” the power, for lack of a better term. It is a really neat idea and gives you some options when going into some boss battles.
The game, though, much like almost every Kirby game before it, is short. There isn’t much difficulty in the game either. There are a couple of really hard bosses and some of the treasure chests can be hard to find but, overall, the game isn’t as long as you’d hope. That doesn’t mean the time you spend with it won’t be fun, though – while it is pretty easy to get through, you’ll have a good time with each and every level. There are also some multiplayer mini-games for you to go through with a buddy, too. The minigames aren’t anything extraordinary, but they do help to provide some replay value and can actually end up being pretty darn fun in their own right.
The graphics and sound are, again, traditional Kirby fare. The music will be very familiar to people that have played Kirby games before as will the sound effects. This familiarity isn’t really a bad thing, though – certain songs and sound effects become so entrenched in a series that they are expected to be in every installment. The graphics retain much of the upbeat feel of previous Kirby games, too. Some of the enemies are just ridiculously cute while the outfits Kirby wears while he has certain powers are equally cute.
Overall, Kirby Squeak Squad is a great return to the formula that helped the series to gain the popularity it has to this date. While the adventure isn’t long, it is definitely fun to play through a couple more times. The multiplayer games give you something to do with a friend, too. While this game isn’t going to be the top graphics or sound masterpiece for the DS, it doesn’t need to. I, for one, am glad to see a return to what made the series successful in the first place – any fans of any of the previous installments will be equally as happy.