Kirby Squeak Squad
Nintendo DS / DSi
Kirby Gets the Wind
After an introductory misstep with “Kirby: Canvas Curse,” a bizarro-world ‘Kirby’ game with too much emphasis on gimmicky touch controls, HAL Labs released a second ‘Kirby’ game for the DS which proved to be much more along the lines of what fans of the franchise expect. That game is, of course, “Kirby: Squeak Squad.”
“Kirby Squeak Squad” is a very nice-looking 2D sprite-based game. Kirby’s pastel-colored world is as vibrant as ever, with diverse environments and a recurring cast of enemy creatures. There are several new enemy types that are diverse and interesting-looking as well. The game’s animations are incredibly smooth and happen on the DS’ top screen. The bottom screen, in an interesting gimmick, shows the contents of Kirby’s stomach, which is apparently an interdimensional pocket.
The audio in “Kirby: Squeak Squad” is just as traditional and excellent as the graphics. There are plenty of remixes from older games in the franchise, as well as a few new tracks.
‘Kirby’ games are never well known for their in-depth narratives. “Kirby: Squeak Squad” is no different, yet it seems to revel in the absurdity of its plot.
The story begins with Kirby, the pink blob of lard, fantasizing about eating a piece of strawberry shortcake. Just as he’s about to sink his… gums?... into the cake, it disappears right out from under his… nose? Thinking that King Dedede, his old nemesis, is up to his food-stealing ways again, Kirby travels to Dedede’s castle and kicks his ass… only do discover that Dedede did NOT steal the cake. Instead, an organized group of rodent professional thieves, the titular Squeak Squad, was behind the theft, as well as a rash of robberies that has consolidated all of the treasures of Pop Star in their hands. As the de-facto protector of Pop Star, Kirby feels obligated to get the planet’s treasures back, but he really just wants to eat that damned cake.
There are some interesting plot twists toward the end of the game. Meta-Knight gets involved, and an evil force is revealed. But ultimately, Kirby remains fixated on eating cake until the very end, which is just hilariously stupid.
‘Kirby’ games only go awry and stray from the path of being masterfully-crafted, if not a bit easy, 2D platformers. “Kirby: Squeak Squad” is an incredibly well-designed 2D platformer, and actually one of the more challenging games in the franchise (though it is by no means difficult to finish).
The game plays out over 8 worlds, each of which holds a handful of stages, including one hidden stage and one boss stage in each world. In addition to the primary goal of surviving to the end of the stage, Kirby can also search for a number of scattered treasure chests in each stage (this number is conveniently indicated on the world map). These chests contain a variety of treasures, ranging from keys to other stages to spraypaints that can change Kirby’s color (as a ‘Kirby’ purist dating back to the original Game Boy Brick game, I prefer to play as a snow-colored Kirby instead of pink).
To make his way through the stages, Kirby has his traditional abilities of sucking-up enemies and swallowing them to gain their powers or spitting them back at each other as projectiles. Also, as usual, Kirby can float through the sky by inhaling a puff of air. The unique gimmick in this particular ‘Kirby’ outing is the fact that he can now store items in his stomach without digesting them, provided the items are trapped in bubbles (talk about a case of gas!). Kirby’s belly can hold up to 5 items, though holding more than 2 is rare, as he must also save room for the hidden treasure chests in each stage, which usually number 3. By tapping a bubble on the touchscreen, which shows the contents of Kirby’s belly, he can use whatever item is in the bubble, which can range from health-restoring food items to power-ups to invincibility-granting lollipops. It’s also possible to drag two bubbles of the same type together in order to combine them and get a randomly-generated item of the same type. There are a few power-ups that can be combined to make unique power-ups, but these only involve the sword power and an elemental power, which is disappointing to me as someone who remembers some of the crazy combination powers available in older ‘Kirby’ games. Of course, there is one power-up that is completely over-powered and renders all of the game’s boss battles, which would otherwise be somewhat challenging, into toothless encounters: Tornado Kirby. Tornado Kirby is invincible while spinning, deals significant damage while spinning, can absorb environmental elemental effects to deal MORE damage while spinning, and has almost no cooldown between spins. Sure, it’s a little hard to control a spinning pink blob, but when nothing can hurt him, precise movements are pretty much irrelevant.
Unfortunately, despite being fun to play, “Kirby: Squeak Squad” is not flawless. There is one major flaw in the game, and that is with the controls. Strangely enough, instead of using the traditional Y = Attack, B = Jump button layout that has been the standard in Nintendo platformers since the SNES, “Kirby: Squeak Squad” uses B = Attack, A = Jump, which feels really awkward (fortunately, DS emulators allow the remapping of buttons, so this was a non-issue for me).
“Kirby: Squeak Squad” is another solid outing in the world of Kirby with enough new villains and enjoyable new gameplay mechanics that it doesn’t feel stale. Fans of the franchise should pick this game up if they haven’t already. While it’s not quite a perfect ‘Kirby’ game, it’s pretty close.
Overall (not an average): 4.5/5