Kirby: Squeak Squad

Kirby: Squeak Squad is a cutesy 2D platformer installment in the Kirby series for the Nintendo DS. Since I’ve stupidly picked this one to review first, let’s get a little more acquainted with the series first. Kirby started out on the Game Boy with the game Kirby’s Dream Land. The gameplay basics include walking, running, jumping, flying, inhaling enemies and objects, and also spitting out the enemies and objects. There are some powerups here and there, but the game is mostly about beating enemies and bosses in a linear set of levels. The game is fairly short and simple, but the emphasis on cute designs and satisfying gameplay make up for the lack of difficulty. Kirby’s Adventure soon followed on the NES, bringing in an overworld with more levels, secrets, and even color! However, the most notable addition is what came to be a staple of the series… the copy abilities. You could inhale certain enemies and swallow them to gain their abilities. See an enemy shooting fire? Eat ‘em up and use their power to your advantage. It added a layer of depth, strategy, and experimentation to the game. Fast-forward through the years and the number of other entries into the series to Squeak Squad.

The general gameplay is about the same. You run and fly around, eating enemies, copying abilities, beating bosses, and traveling across strange and wonderful lands. The story is fairly simple, consisting of Kirby trying to find his stolen dessert. The things that make this game stand out the most are the Squeak Squad members themselves and the bubble storage system. The storage system allows you to keep up to you five items on the touch screen. These items are generally only found in bubbles, ranging from copy abilities you can pull out at any time to healing items you can use in a pinch and more. Many items can be combined in the bubble area to make different items. Combining two healing items may yield a better one. Combining multiple copy abilities will create new ones. And sometimes you’ll even create a randomized item. This all helps with finding secrets because you can save up a copy ability in a bubble that you need to access certain areas. The most common secrets are treasure chests. You need to make it to the end of the stage with them inside your inventory. They take up a slot, but getting to the exit with a chest will allow you to open it and receive its rewards. These range from extras like songs and alternate color schemes to things like secret levels and life meter extensions. Some stages have a large chest in them. Grabbing this chest will alert the Squeak Squad, a group of mice that are grabbing loot like packrats. Typically one of the main, larger members will chase and attack you while lesser minions will stand in your way. Getting hit by one of these characters will make you drop a chest each time and they will be eager to grab them and take them back to their lair on that screen. If they manage to get the treasure into their hideout you’ll have a small window of time to jump in and duke it out to get your booty back. However, if you take too long to crash their party then the place will be boarded up and you’ll have to redo the level to get your goods. These are the main innovations to the series.

I loved a lot about this game. It’s still not too difficult, as is the way of Kirby games, but it’s so pretty to look at, pleasant to hear, and satisfying to play that it’s hard not to enjoy it. There are a good amount of levels and secrets to keep you hunting and playing for a good amount of time. The collectibles with their slight customization and progression options make solving the puzzles and finding the secrets all the more rewarding. Also, there are a ton of copy abilities this time around. Plus many of the copy abilities have even more inputs for interesting moves now. AND every copy ability has one secret move you can unlock by finding hidden scrolls throughout the levels. It just takes the things that made Kirby games great and expands upon them. This game goes so much correctly. The focus is definitely on fun here, and it does not miss the mark at all.

That is… until you check out the sub games. You can unlock boss rush mode as a sub game, which is okay, but the standard three versus games available right off the bat are pretty lame in my opinion. To be fair, I’m not a fan of touch screen controls and all three hinge on that. One has you trying to eat food off of a platter that is uncovered each turn. You want to tap the cakes with strawberries on them and avoid the ones with bombs as those will stun you for a turn. The bigger the cake, the more points you get. The first one to fill their meter wins. Not terrible, but not remarkable either. Another one of these has you trying to get treasure as it pops up above three chests. Again, you want to avoid the bombs and go for the higher scoring treasure. You do this by throwing balls at them, swiping the bottom screen diagonally up right, up left, or just up. Again, it’s a simple concept that seems to be even more lackluster than the first. The final game has you on stars trying to knock each other and some NPCs off of the edges of an arena. You swipe around on the bottom screen to move your character around on the top screen. Tapping and holding your Kirby will charge you up and then swiping will send you flying fast in that direction, but it also takes some time to charge. This is arguably the most fun of the bunch, but even this will get old fast. I guess they’re just sub games, after all. They’re designed for multiplayer with others with or without multiple game cards. So that’s nice at least for something to do with friends, but the main campaign completely overshadows this. You CAN play them against computers by yourself… but… it’s even more lifeless this way. The one other unlockable is extra mode, where you play the campaign in a speedrun type fashion. You have a time limit on each stage. That’s about it. It just makes the main game weirdly pressured, which doesn’t feel like the point of a Kirby game. Aside from maybe a couple nitpicks, that’s really all I took issue with in the game.

Kirby: Squeak Squad is probably the best Kirby game I’ve played. Or it’s at least my favorite. It takes all of the good elements of Kirby and expands upon them. It’s wonderful. Plus the fact that it’s on a portable system is a big plus to play it anywhere you want. For fans of fun platformers and the Kirby series, definitely check this out. It’s easily worth 20 bucks, if not 30 for the truly interested. I couldn’t believe how much depth could come from such simple additions. It’s wonderful. It looks great. It sounds great. It plays great. Besides, how often does this little guy disappoint?

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