Kirby Squeak Squad
Rather than touching Kirby himself, you're given access to the contents of his star-lined stomach! (seriously)
When Kirby Squeak Squad was announced back at E3 '06 my eyes lit up with delight. I was thrilled to be able to enjoy another Kirby title for the DS so soon, specifically because I had immediately fallen in love with Kirby Canvas Curse. Then after returning to reality, and absorbing some of the screens and footage, I noticed that the game they were announcing was a return to norm for the series. At this point I suffered from a serious dichotomy of interests. Kirby Canvas Curse was everything a DS game needed to be: undeniably portable, innovative, and not to mention fun. However, I also fondly remember playing the original Kirby's Dream Land on the monochrome masterpiece, and how excellently the (then not so pink) poof embraced sidescrolling gameplay. Alas, what's a gamer to do?
It's easy to be unhappy about Kirby Squeak Squad when pining for a sequel to Canvas Curse, and at the same time it's also easy to instantly praise the new game in the same manner that New Super Mario Bros. was praised. It could be said that Nintendo is using the same formula for both releases. 1. Embrace classic gameplay. 2. Update visuals. 3. Tack on minimal touch-screen functionality. It seems like a formula that could work for a lot of series', but is it one that gamers are comfortable with? Regardless of how much I'm hoping for another iteration of Canvas Curse, I'll be the first to admit it. The formula works for me, damn near every time.
Well, with that minor rant out of the way, what about the game you ask? Kirby Squeak Squad seems to be everything that fans of the classic franchise should expect. Kirby explores a 2D platforming world, with the same mechanics that he has always used, albeit some of those are reinvented to make better use of the DS' touch screen.
Players can wander about, jumping to their hearts content, and inhaling practically everything within their path. Inhaling air will inflate Kirby to balloon-sized proportions so that he can float great distances, while inhaling enemies and items allow him to use power-ups and the copy abilities that he's famous for. When items or power-ups are engulfed by the monstrous appetite of this jolly glutton, they end up appearing in what can only be the inside of Kirby's stomach, on the DS' bottom screen. It should be noted that Kirby's stomach is filled with stars and looks more like a void, but whatever, he's magical. Players can then use the stylus to select items or merge them together to form more powerful ones.
Merging certain items together yields a roulette like selection that offers some unique items that can't be obtained otherwise. That's it for touch-screen functionality so far, so obviously don't be expecting the Canvas Curse rainbow writing element. Gameplay shouldn't suffer too much without it, as there seems to be a nice assortment of classic abilities for Kirby to copy, as well as a varied selection of enemies and bosses. Some of which seem very large and impressive, for a sidescrolling platformer anyways.
Many of the games foes will be members of the Squeak Squad, the group from which the game draws its subtitle. The Squeak Squad is an organized group of villainous mice, out to steal the treasures of Dream Land. Initially Kirby suspects the culprit of the crimes to be his original nemesis, King Dedede, however after discovering the rodents and their plan, he prepares to discover the treasures before they can get their furry hands (paws?) on them. Here's hoping the Squeak Squad are half as charming as the Plob, the organized platypus crime syndicate from Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime.
There is still potential for some news to break about Kirby Squeak Squad before its release, and with most outlets featuring little hands-on time post the E3 demo, the game has the potential to have some gameplay elements and other surprises not yet announced. I wouldn't expect anything quite as robust as skiing on rainbows, but I suppose that's for a different game. Kirby Squeak Squad is undoubtedly the game many franchise fans are waiting for, and at the same time it's a far stretch for DS owners with little knowledge of the series beyond Canvas Curse. I'll say that it has potential to be a great game in its own right, but will it be Canvas Curse great? The jury's still out on this side of the fence.