Currently scheduled for release in North America early next month, Kirby Squeak Squad is a colorful platformer in which you'll assume the titular role of Kirby--a pink ball with limbs and a face who appeared in his first game back in 1992. We recently had an opportunity to spend some time with a near-finished version of Kirby's upcoming adventure, and we're pleased to report that while Squeak Squad will feel familiar if you're a fan of the series, the game introduces plenty of new features.
If you've played previous Kirby games you'll know that they generally task you with saving Dream Land from some despicable evil, and Squeak Squad is no exception. To cut a short story even shorter, somebody steals delicious strawberry shortcake from right under Kirby's nose at the start of the game, and the rotund marshmallow-esque hero heads into the greedy King Dedede's castle to retrieve it. This level serves as a tutorial in which you'll be acquainted with the game's controls and will make you come to realize that, on this occasion, there are powers even more dastardly than Dedede at work.
Kirby is controlled using only the directional pad and the A and B buttons. The directional pad is used to move left and right, slide, float, and squat. The A button is used primarily for jumping, and the B button is used to "inhale" enemies so that they can be exhaled as projectiles or swallowed. When swallowing many of the enemies in the game, Kirby is able to learn their abilities. The control scheme remains largely unchanged at this point, but you do have the option to pause the game when using an enemy's ability and check out the controls that are specific to it. There are more than 25 quite varied and upgradeable abilities to experiment with, and you'll find that the game's levels and bosses are designed in such a way that they play out very differently depending on which one you're using at the time.
Many of the abilities that you'll gain access to early on in the game simply offer different ways to attack enemies, so you might choose to use a sword, fiery breath, a laser, or shuriken, for example. As you progress through the game, you'll learn that when used correctly, many of the abilities afford you access to otherwise unreachable areas. The new animal ability, for example, lets Kirby dig through soft soil, and the ice ability can be used to put out fires and freeze lava pools so that you can walk across them. Other abilities that we've enjoyed experimenting with thus far include wheel, which lets Kirby mow down enemies as he rolls across a level at high speed; parasol, which arms Kirby with an umbrella that can be used both as a weapon and as a parachute; metal, which makes Kirby heavy enough to break down walls and floors; and bubble, which lets Kirby capture enemy abilities inside bubbles and store them for use later on. Up to five abilities inside bubbles can be stored on the touch screen, and to activate one you simply tap it with your stylus (or, since you're using both hands to play the game already and probably shouldn't grip the stylus in your mouth, your thumb). Furthermore, many abilities can be combined to form new and more powerful ones simply by dragging one bubble onto another.
You'll want to have as many different abilities stored on the touch screen as possible at all times, because you never know when you might come up against an enemy who is especially vulnerable to a particular type of attack. Kirby Squeak Squad also does a good job of rewarding you with treasures and such if you take the time to explore its not-entirely linear levels, and it can be quite frustrating to see an area with a treasure chest in it but have no way of reaching it. Some of the treasures that you find will simply be power-ups for use in game, but you'll also unlock additional gameplay options, Kirby colors, music samples, and the like. We look forward to bringing you more information on Kirby Squeak Squad closer to its release.