Sucky, but not bad.
Before Kirby Canvas Curse, most DS games were either glorified GBA titles, or expensive tech demos. So imagine our surprise when one of the diminutive system’s best early titles involved Kirby and painting. We thought to ourselves, “Will wonders ever cease?”
Yes, yes they will.
Kirby’s streak of unexpected originality just came to a screeching halt with the newly released Kirby Squeak Squad, the latest game featuring Nintendo’s puffed up hero. For those of you unfamiliar with Kirby (all eight of you), here’s the basic premise - you are a round pink creature thing that sucks in various enemies and assumes their abilities. It’s good fun, just not remotely new.
The game begins with Kirby sitting down to eat, and presumably become, a piece of cheesecake. Suddenly, his cheesecake disappears. Kirby instantly blames the evil King Dedede, and decides to go after him and his dessert. Only after defeating said king does Kirby realize it was actually the wicked Squeak Squad that nicked his snack. Yep, that’s a Kirby plot alright.
Whereas the last Kirby game on the DS (Canvas Curse) introduced a whole new style of play using the system’s touch screen capabilities, Squeak Squad is a return to tradition and as such, is a much less exciting affair. This is a very by the numbers platformer – there’s nothing here you haven’t played a dozen times before. As Kirby, you traverse various lands and levels, swallow enemies, and use their powers to your advantage. On the plus side, there are a large number of abilities from fire breathing to electrocution to more bizarre ones like turning into a wheel.
The levels themselves are usually too easy, sometimes too short, and always too predictable. You can easily play through the whole game in a day. To bolster its replay value, the developers included 120 treasure chests spread through the levels, which mainly unlock extras. These range from changing Kirby’s color, to increasing his life bar to unlocking extra moves for specific powers. This is certainly a welcome inclusion but too often these chests aren’t exactly cleverly hidden and you’ll be able to grab most on your first trip through a given level.
The difficulty level could also use some refinement. Whereas most of the game is totally easy, there are a couple bosses that are nigh invincible unless you exploit a particular cheap ability (which I won’t mention) over and over.
Perhaps the only original aspect of Squeak Squad is what the developers decided to do with the touch screen. The bottom screen now acts as Kirby’s stomach and allows you to store up to five power ups or items at any given time. You can also combine power ups to create new ones. Personally, I didn’t use this much, since combining two different abilities often gives you an inferior ability for which you have no use, or even worse, sometimes you’ll mix two abilities only to be rewarded with one of the two original powers. What a waste.
Despite all the negatives mentioned, the game still manages to be somewhat entertaining, if only in short spurts. There’s just something oddly captivating about sucking in stuff and assuming different forms and powers all the while navigating through a host of otherworldly (albeit derivative) locales. There’s a reason why this series has been alive for as long as it has – it’s simple, old-school and still kinda fun.
Visually, the game is hardly a departure from previous incarnations and doesn’t look a whole lot better than a GBA game. While the graphics certainly won’t blow your socks off, they’re still quite attractive, featuring very vivid and vibrant environments and nicely detailed sprites for characters and items.
Surprisingly, Squeak Squad
features a number of good, catchy tunes. You probably won’t find yourself humming them in the shower, but the included music is definitely well done.
As a bonus of sorts, Squeak Squad includes a few mini games that employ the touch screen. Unfortunately, not one of these is very interesting or even worth your time. However, should you decide to try them out, you can play against a friend or two. This scarcely qualifies as a multiplayer mode and is a poor substitute for cooperative play, which the game lacks.
So there you have it, folks. Kirby manages to star in yet another passable game for a Nintendo system. No, Kirby Squeak Squad isn’t ground-breaking by any means, but hey, you could do a lot worse. And in today’s world, with all the junk out there, that’s mostly a compliment.