IGN Review of Kirby: Squeak Squad
When last we left Nintendo and HAL Laboratory's pink puff on the Nintendo DS system, he was rolling around in an amazingly clever, touch screen exclusive design released last year called Kirby Canvas Curse. It was original and fun, and offered something completely new in Kirby's "absorb powers" universe. Kirby Squeak Squad, his second dual-screen adventure, is a curious return to the classic style of the Kirby platform design, so it doesn't quite offer the same creative "oomph" that Canvas Curse gave Nintendo DS owners. It's really more of an advancement of the two Game Boy Advance platformers. This DS game evolves that design with some new elements and creates a fun, somewhat simple quest that gets significantly harder if you look for all the tempting treats tucked away.
The writers clearly had a ball creating Kirby's quest for Squeak Squad. When the poor guy's strawberry shortcake is nicked right out from under Kirby's, uh, nose, he's off on a quest to get it back. It's assumed that it's his arch baddy King Dedede, but it's learned early on that the one responsible is actually a new gang in town called, what else: the Squeak Squad. So now it's an adventure through Dream Land snagging treasure chests away from the Squeak Squad before they can get them first.
If you've never played a Kirby platformer before, Squeak Squad pretty much follows the formula to a T: Kirby can suck wind and float through the air, and using his powers of inhalation he can gulp up enemies. If they've got special powers to be had, Kirby can utilize them to the best of his abilities: swallow down a knight and he'll steal his sword-handling ability. A wheel character might give him the skills of a speeding tire. An electrical enemy? Why, the power to zap folk, of course.
Kirby offers up the standard platform challenge: get through to the end of the level. The way these areas have been laid out, it's not a hard task to pull off thanks to very straightforward platform jumping and floating to get from point A to point B. If that's all you're looking to do in this game you'll be done in few hours. But this game is all about snagging treasure chests, and the only way you're going to beat this game at a hundred percent is to snag these chests before the Squeak Squad does. And that's the real challenge: chests are arranged in levels in such a way that many can only be snagged by using a power-up in a specific way. If you miss an opportunity you can simply return to the level with the knowledge of how that chest eluded you the first time, and possibly with the idea of how to snag it the next time.
It really does help that the items within the chests are true treasures for the gamer to enjoy. Some are just pieces to still screens that can be enjoyed in Squeak Squad's art section. Some are treats like the ability to change Kirby's in-game color, or sound samples that can be listened to in the Sound test. It's definitely a tease that what you're skipping over by letting a chest go unopened might be something cool, so it's too tempting to let one go unsnagged. That enticement keeps things interesting in Kirby Squeak Squad, and it's a good thing that some challenges aren't always so cut and dry simple.
The Nintendo DS doesn't stray very far from the original Kirby theme, but it does add a few elements. There are some new or retooled enemy/weapons to utilize. The biggest addition, though is the ability to carry multiple items at once, and that's where the lower touch screen comes into play. When Kirby swallows an item encased in a bubble, he can store it inside him, i.e his belly on the lower screen. Tapping on the item will activate it if it's a power-up, but players can slide items around to combine two or three together for a bigger power-up...or they can just flick an unneeded item back up through Kirby's mouth. Bleah.
Ultimately, though, the game is just an evolved Kirby GBA platformer, right down to the visual and audio style. It's developed by the same team, Flagship, so it's no surprise. The game lacks that creative spark that made Canvas Curse so cool, but it's hard to fault the game for sticking with what works: the Kirby platformer is a solid and fun design, and the Nintendo DS version keeps with that theme and builds upon it with some decent level structure and puzzles that's challenging if you go for the goods.
The game does get even better with the added multiplayer extras. There's a silly quick-draw, touch screen "eat the food before the opponent does" challenge, as well as an aim-and-fire mode using the stylus to flick balls at targets on the upper screen. But the real gem is the Monkey Fight-inspired arena battle where players try to knock each other off the ledge as many times as possible. These games can be played with only one copy of the game, and while they're certainly meant to supplement the single player experience you might find yourself arena battling more than just a few times.
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