It's just another day for Kirby, everyone's favorite bottomless stomach. He's just about to enjoy an afternoon snack of strawberry shortcake when the confection is suddenly stolen right out from under our hero! Before long Kirby learns the theft is the work of a group of thieving mice known as the Squeaks, and as it turns out the Squeaks are attempting to snatch up all kinds of treasure that has been scattered around the land. Eager to recover his missing cake, Kirby sets off to face the Squeaks in Kirby: Squeak Squad for the Nintendo DS.
Squeak Squad takes Kirby back to his 2D platformer roots in which our hero runs, jumps, and inhales enemies in order to gain their abilities. On the whole there's nothing new about the core gameplay here. The familiar abilities such as Fire, Ice, Cutter, Wheel, and many more also return with a few new powers thrown in for good measure. Anyone who has played a traditional Kirby game will feel right at home here because it's the same basic game we've been enjoying since Kirby's Adventure. The new major elements added into the mix include an "item bank" for collected items (swallowed abilities and health pick-me-ups are stored on the touchscreen until tapped) and a series of treasure chests that must be collected. Each level contains up to three chests, one of which attracts a member of the Squeaks once collected. Kirby must get to the level's exit with all of his collected treasure stored safely in his stomach (that is, inhale and swallow each treasure chest into the item bank) in order to keep the loot. If Kirby takes a hit from a Squeak then he risks dropping a chest and having it stolen right out from under him. Each chest contains a small bonus of sorts that allow Kirby to change color, listen to the sound test mode, look at character artwork, and so on.
While I love the familiar gameplay, the game's greatest failing is that it's just too darn short. I completed the main story mode and collected all 120 treasure chests in just two days with little difficulty. I collected everything there was to collect and walked away wondering "Is that all?". Even the special bonuses such as the map to the secret ability museum and the ghost ability added little incentive to return to the adventure. There are a few minor mini-games tossed in for random enjoyment, a boss rush mode, and a time attack mode that challenges players to complete the game one more time (but without saving progress along the way), but these extras did little to inspire a second run through the game. I expected some longevity from the main story mode and just did not get it.
In the end it's hard to recommend Kirby: Squeak Squad because it's all over so quickly. The gameplay is solid and some of the puzzles are inventive, but there really should have been more to do in this adventure. It's fun, sure, but not $30 worth of fun. Hang back and wait for a sale or clearance to pick this one up. For a game centered on eating, Squeak Squad just doesn't have enough meat on its bones.