It’s not often that RPGs come out that have unique gameplay. It’s also fairly rare when a mobile game gets brought over onto a high-fidelity console, so how do games like this play? When I first played Squids Odyssey, I didn’t even know it was originally an iOS game until I researched more on it. From then, I was pleasantly surprised, but there were still some questionable things in the design that changed my overall perspective.
Squids is a game where you take control of up to four different aquatic characters, usually squid-like characters (hence the title), and complete a level through various means. The story revolves around a dangerous ooze that threatens to take over the seven kingdoms of the sea. As you progress through the story, new characters join your team, each with stats that can be upgraded and different hats to wear that can also improve your stats. There are a total of eight campaign sets, totaling about 90+ levels. The campaigns are a compilation of the two iOS games, which give you a lot to play with.
Each level has a star system; every star gives you a reward, like pearls or hats, which you can use to upgrade each of your characters. Among other things, doing specific tricks during a level, like attacking an enemy multiple times or using a skill to its full potential will get you bonus pearls. Pearls are used to buy power-ups, hats, and especially are used to level up your units. The leveling system is fairly basic; you don’t have much choice in what you upgrade, but that’s not a very big issue.
There are four unit classes in Squids: Scout, Shooter, Healer, and Trooper. Scouts can dash to go farther or attack enemies more times, Shooters can shoot enemies at range, Healers can bump into other units and heal them, and Troopers can stomp the ground and attack everything in a set radius. You can have any combination of the classes with you without any added penalty.
The level design is fun and creative. They all have goals, like defeating every enemy or just reaching the end of a stage, while others ask you to survive for a set amount of turns. At times, defeating everything seems like a grind, so I would just go through the entire level with one squid and would run through the entire level without defeating anything, and I wouldn’t get punished for it. Some levels require you to fight various enemies in order to continue.
The enemies have decent variety, but it’s nothing to be amazed with. Most are more difficult because they have different colored eyes, but along with that, some enemies have skills similar to your squids. The balance is fine in the early game, but I have noticed a very sudden spike in difficulty towards the midgame, which will probably mean you’ll need to grind already beaten levels in order to improve your team.
The combat is as simple as can be. It’s a turn-based game where you launch your units towards enemies to bump them off the stage, into hazards, etc. Anything you can plan out well, you can potentially pull off with ease. You can control with the touch screen or with the face controls; you can also mix both together. Squids Odyssey also has off-TV mode, which just switches everything to the GamePad, which is where I realized one big peculiarity.
The game seems better strictly on the GamePad. When you play the game on your TV, you constantly have to look down in order to orient yourself if you’re using touch controls. This isn’t a problem if you play with just the face controls, but with off-TV mode, I never had any qualms with either control scheme. If I had experience with the iOS versions of the game, I could probably correlate this with the similarities between both versions, but as it stands, I’m not sure if this is just the product of conversion.
Another qualm I had with the game is that menus seem very sluggish and laggy. Having the menus on the bottom screen is fine, but at first, I didn’t know what they did; there was no indication of what they did, and it was a bit disorienting navigating menus on the TV with something that seems built for touch controls. Again, another thing that’s fixed with playing on the GamePad.
Other than the menus, everything gameplay-wise has been transitioned very well to a console experience. However, the choice of how you play the game will be entirely debatable to your own preferences.
I’m a sucker for anything that even remotely looks hand-painted, and on that note, this game’s graphics fidelity has not missed a beat. Everything looks vibrant and lush; it’s actually almost relaxing in some places. Story cut-scenes have this same care put into it’s images, and it flows so well in so many ways. Even smaller details have that nice touch to it, and that’s what makes it great.
Sadly, this is the drop-off. The music is good, of course, but there’s only a small handful of music that is continuously used in the entirety of specific campaigns that it becomes repetitive. It’s hard to explain the music itself, but the most used song is used as the menu music, in cheerful or silly stages in the game, and especially in cut-scenes before a music shift. Again, it’s good, but there’s not enough music to actually enforce that goodness.
Overall: 7 (Good)
I wish I had played the iOS versions to know how good this version is in comparison to it’s original. However, I had fun with this. The gameplay is something I haven’t seen before in any game, which is commendable. This all boils down to if you want to pay $15 for this game, which is a fair enough price for a game with enough content to last a few hours and seems to have enough replay value to entice casual players to play some of their favorite stages over again, or for the completionists out there to get everything available in the game. Some of the design choices on the console are questionable, but nothing so terrible that it actually changes the overall experience.
Squids Odyssey is available now on the Wii U eShop for $14.99 USD. The 3DS version has yet to get a release date.
For people who have bought the game, The Game Bakers made an entire guide book for their game: Check it out here.