As the one of the most adorable mainstays in Nintendo’s stable, Kirby generally appeals to younger gamers. But that doesn’t mean the little pink marshmallow has nothing for seasoned gamers. Kirby: Canvas Curse was a fine game, showing the ingenuity of the DS’s touch screen early on in the system’s lifespan. Squeak Squad doesn't bring the same kind of innovation, and instead sees Kirby pitted against a team of rodent robbers hell bent on making off with all of Dream Land’s treasures for a more classical 2-D experience.
You’ll jump, float and shoot your way through eight lusciously designed, charmingly pastel worlds. But don’t take Kirby ’s sugary spoonful of super-cute at face value - just about everything in your environment serves an interactive function. Grass can be cut, water is freezable and there’s dirt to be dug. And as always, the way to Kirby’s heart - and victory - is through his stomach (the games silly story is kicked off by a missing cake after all).
Just as in the Kirby's GBA and SNES games, swallowing baddies will endow you with their powers. Kirby can wield a sword, breathe fire and even fight like a ninja. There are over twenty abilities to find, although you’ll use things like Throw or Tornado very little. Others are fun, such as the Wheel, albeit impractical in use.
But the game takes a tiny pink step backward in terms of interaction with the touch screen. Unlike the clever implementation in Canvas Curse, the lower screen is reserved for Kirby’s stomach. Here the touch screen is a glorified menu, storing multiple abilities and/or power-up items. Unfortunately, you’ll do little more than tap to select from the five measly objects in your tummy-tum.
You can combine two elements to get a new one, but the resulting item isn't usually a combination of the ingredients you've selected: it's a randomly chosen element. For example, Fire plus sword might not necessarily net you a Fire Sword. You may get just a sword. Scrolls contained in hidden treasure chests will eventually give you better odds of getting what you want, but by then, you may be burned by all the previous randomness. It's worth the risk though; using Kirby's abilities wisely can open up places previously unaccessable, though most are not vital to completeing the game.
We know that Kirby series skews younger, but only a few boss battles offer any real challenge. Plus the game is relatively short. Sure, there are some multiplayer minigames but searching for the all the levels for every treasure chest is the only thing likely to keep you playing longer than a weekend.
Okay, the story isn’t winning any Pulitzers, but Kirby Squeak Squad will certainly please the kiddies, yet may only whet the palate of those aching for the next great side-scrolling throwback.