Platform: Nintendo DS
Developers: HAL Laboratory
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Release Date: December 4th, 2006
With Kirby games, you tend to know what you're gonna get going in. Which is probably why they tend to be so popular. You can walk into any installment you want and find a fun, if light and fluffy, gaming experience. No mad gaming skills required, just the ability to have a good time and the lack of an aversion to bright colors, especially pink.
With every game, there tends to be a bit of innovation snuck in there as well though, mostly for variety. The previous installment, Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, did this with it's Metroid-esque interconnected world and the ability to call on four other Kirby's to help you. Kirby Squeak Squad isn't any different, though as with almost every Kirby game it has forgone the additions in the previous game; we're back to one Kirby and back to the more traditional stage based level structure. Which is fine considering the series never keeps the changes.
Before we get to that, we'll start with the story. Yes, the story. Kirby games never have much of a plot aside from the most threadbare you could possibly find, more as an excuse to get in there and eat things. This games plot is probably even more threadbare than usual. It literally boils down to "MMM STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE OMNOMNOM OMFGWTF THOSE RATS STOLE MY CAKE MUST KILL RATS MUST RESCUE CAKE". No, really; that's it. But like with every game, do we really need any more? Not really.
So, the additions for this particular game are certainly different, as usual. Much of the game will revolve around collecting treasure, which you need to grab before the members of the Squeak Squad, who stole the Strawberry Shortcake that set the game into motion. This treasure is kept in your stomach. You can hold up to five bubble coated powers, items or treasure in your stomach at a time. The trick is to know what to keep and when to use something, considering each stage has up to three treasures to find and they each take up a spot in your gut.
The other "innovation" of sorts, and I put quotations because we've seen a variation of this before, is something I would have liked to have seen more of. You can combine two items in your stomach to create a new item. For instance, if you do this with three small Kirby powerups, it turns into a 1-up. After you get a powerup scroll for your sword power, you can combine a fireball ability item with a sword ability item to create the Fire Sword ability. This really, really had the potential to add a great deal to the overall gameplay with different ways to get new powers, but the problem is that it is unfortunately not used much. You're really not going to have too many times where combining things will be beneficial; doing it with most items just gives you a bubble of the returning Hi-Jump powerup. That this gimmick was so underused kind of stuck with me, considering I'm never a fan of good ideas going unfulfilled.
The only returning "gimmick" from the last one, Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, is the collection of treasure; one of the few that's returned for another game and in it's third game so far (after The Great Cave Offensive in Kirby Super Star Deluxe/Ultra and Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, respectively). Theres a good deal to collect in this game, with up to a hundred and twenty different treasures to find and collect scattered about the many stages. The prizes to be found can range anywhere from spray paint to recolor Kirby to meddalions for unlocking a new mode once the game is completed to pieces of graphics you can view from the collection to pieces of a map that will lead to someplace new. It does add replay to the game after the main quest, for certain; especially for anyone like me who has a habit of trying to collect everything possible.
Gameplay is otherwise as simple as usual. You float, skip, jump and eat enemies through a bunch of colorful stages of Dream Land. Most of your basic powerups return this go around, with one or two actually returning after a good deal of time being unused; and some treasures will actually upgrade these powers, which is a welcome addition. Unfortunately, you're still not going to find as much to do with these powers as before. While Kirby Super Star Deluxe gave you a lot of things you could do with each particular powerup, to much amusement and enjoyment, no game since has ever given you as many move options. But an old time fan will be used to that by now and anyone who played Kirby Super Star Ultra to experience Deluxe for the first time probably understands by now that each Kirby game has it's own quirks.
The Score: Dramatic Thumbs Up
This is a fine game, for certain, but I felt like there were areas that really needed to be expanded upon to make this entry truly unique. Kirby and the Amazing Mirror had a good deal of replay value thanks to the level of exploring you did and the recent upgrade of Kirby Super star Deluxe, Kirby Super Star Ultra, has several different games packed in each with their own unique gimmick. Given that, it's hard to really reccomend this game considering there are other easily available Kirby games to buy with more to do. Still, if you're a Kirby fan and you have money to burn, there's no reason not to pick it up. Reccomended.