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Critical Reception: Nintendo's Kirby Squeak Squad

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Nintendo's Kirby Squeak Squad, one of the hottest selling Nintendo DS titles in the weeks leading up to the holiday season and 'a return to the series' platforming roots'.
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Nintendo's Kirby Squeak Squad, one of the hottest selling Nintendo DS titles in the weeks leading up to the holiday season. Kirby has proven to be a profitable character for Nintendo, with related titles spanning several of the company's consoles since Kirby's introduction in 1992. The first game in which Kirby played a starring role -- Kirby's Dreamland for the monochrome Game Boy -- has served as a template for the character's later games, which offer side-scrolling, platforming action set against a lighthearted fantasy backdrop. Kirby's introduction to the Nintendo DS was a departure from what many fans expected, however. 2005's Kirby Canvas Curse was not a platformer; rather, it was an action game that focused on the use of the Nintendo DS's touch screen throughout normal gameplay. The title was a hit with critics, many of whom considered Canvas Curse one of the Kirby series' most innovative and creative games. Kirby Squeak Squad, on the other hand, offers a return to the series' platforming roots. Given the quality of nearly all previous Kirby games, fans and critics alike expected Squeak Squad to remain a solid, fun experience, and reviews thus far indicate that this is indeed the case. The game has earned decent marks with the gaming press, with review scores averaging out at a 75% score ratio at Gamerankings.com. IGN's Craig Harris begins his 7.8-out-of-10 review by discussing Kirby's brief history on the Nintendo DS. "When last we left Nintendo and HAL Laboratory's pink puff on the Nintendo DS system," Harris states, "he was rolling around in an amazingly clever, touch screen exclusive design released last year called Kirby Canvas Curse." "Kirby Squeak Squad, his second dual-screen adventure," Harris notes in contrast, "is a curious return to the classic style of the Kirby platform design, so it doesn't quite offer the same creative 'oomph' that Canvas Curse gave Nintendo DS owners." This is not necessarily a bad thing, however. "Ultimately," Harris summarizes, "the game is just an evolved Kirby GBA platformer, right down to the visual and audio style." Harris concludes: "Kirby Squeak Squad is nothing spectacular if you're looking at it as a creative new way to experience the classic Kirby gameplay. Especially if you're just coming off of the very original Canvas Curse. But it's still a solid and fun evolution of the HAL platform style, with some clever puzzles and cool new enemies and moves." Alex Navarro of Gamespot feels much the same way as Harris, awarding Squeak Squad a score of 7.7 out of 10. "Fans of Kirby's numerous platforming adventures will find a lot to like about Squeak Squad," Navarro asserts, "though they'll rarely find themselves challenged by it." Lack of difficulty is Squeak Squad's major gameplay drawback, according to Navarro. "Squeak Squad's story mode can be completed in just a few hours on your first play-through," he writes. "Part of it is the relative brevity of the stages, but another part is that the game is just very, very easy." "If you prefer a bit more meat to your platformers and want more challenge than what an easy, breezy game like this one provides, then you may find yourself over and done with Kirby Squeak Squad very, very quickly," Navarro warns. "However, those who don't mind the relative simplicity and short story may end up addicted to playing around with Kirby's various copy abilities and replaying stages over and over again to track down every hidden chest and item." Squeak Squad's simplicity is also a major problem cited by GameSpy's Phil Theobald in his review, in which he scores the game at 3.5 out of 5 stars. "The Kirby platform titles have always been loads of fun, if not a bit too simplistic for their own good," Theobald says. "For better or worse, Kirby Squeak Squad maintains both of those values. Gone is the "Metroidvania"-style gameplay that was featured in Kirby's last platformer, Kirby & The Amazing Mirror." In short: "This one is plain ol' "point A to point B" side-scrolling excitement." Theobald is impressed by Squeak Squad's additions to the core Kirby gameplay, however. "Kirby can carry up to five bubbled items in his belly, and a quick touch is all it takes to pop the bubble and activate the power-up," he notes. "This new skill comes in remarkably handy, and having this extra control over what abilities Kirby can use makes level exploration all the more fun and intuitive." "Given the amount of great platformers appearing on the DS lately, Kirby Squeak Squad has an awful lot of competition," Theobald concludes. "It's definitely a great-looking and playing title, but its simplicity might turn off a lot of players. Still, there's a certain charm to Kirby titles that keeps me coming back for more." Despite lacking the innovation found in Kirby Canvas Curse, Kirby Squeak Squad appears to be an above-average platformer that plays it safe with a solid gameplay foundation, and should appeal to longtime Kirby fans. A lack of difficulty may prove to be an issue for some, but as several reviewers noted, Squeak Squad's easy difficulty level may well be a positive selling point for parents shopping for young children during the holiday season.

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