Kirby sucks—and this time, I actually mean it.
While Super Mario will always be my bread and butter, I've always had a sweet spot for Hal's little cream puff. Whether it's a platformer, a puzzler, or something in-between, Kirby games are usually good times. While Kirby Air Ride had its ups and downs, Kirby and the Amazing Mirror introduced an unprecedented degree of non-linearity for the series, and Canvas Curse was the first quality, original title for Nintendo DS. Sadly, the series falls flat on its face in Kirby: Sqeak Squad, lacking any semblance of depth or exploration.
In Squeak Squad, Kirby must chase after a group of intergalactic mice known as the Squeaks, who are bent on stealing the land's treasures and sweets for themselves. Kirby has his usual arsenal of powers to copy, as well his trusty stomach. In fact, Kirby can now hold up to five items in his tummy, ranging from undigested powers to treasure chests. The touch screen, which displays Kirby's belly, allows players to select an item to digest or regurgitate (which is useful when full).
With Kirby's enhanced intestinal track, you'd think Squeak Squad would require careful collection of powers to reach secret areas. Well, forget it—the belly is a shallow gimmick construed to justify Squeak Squad's existence on the DS. Indeed, long-time Kirby fans will quickly lose interest in the simple level designs, which go through the motions but provide little challenge. Squeak Squad is most closely modeled after Kirby's Adventure (a.k.a. Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland), only easier. Levels contain anywhere from one to three treasure chests, which Kirby will open upon the stage's completion. Many lie out in the open for the taking; if a certain power is needed to retrieve the chest, it can usually be found on the very same screen or, at best, slightly earlier in the stage. The Squeaks guard larger chests and will attempt to take the booty into their hideout. Usually, Kirby can snag the prize and dash to the stage goal without a fight, but if the Squeaks manage to drag a box to their hideout, Kirby will have to enter and rough 'em up. Either way, the rodents are pushovers.
Frankly, Kirby's special powers are the game's only saving grace for players old enough to appreciate level design. Whether swinging a sword, throwing ninja stars, or breathing fire, Kirby has a solid set of moves, and the extra abilities for those powers found in treasure chests build upon them. Of course, this game is freeloading off well-crafted games such as Kirby Super Star and Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, downgrading this plus to a throwaway.
It saddens me to give a Kirby platformer such a lukewarm review, but Squeak Squad's underused powers, severely obtuse puzzles, and marginal variety sets the series back over a decade. After Flagship's quality work on Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, Squeak Squad comes as a complete shock. I can only hope the stupefying of this series was deliberate and will be swiftly reversed.