A game based around slinging squids across the screen may not sound all that impressive, but by the same note a game based around chucking moody birds at shoddily-built structures probably seemed like a questionable endeavour for those folks at Rovio too. And like Angry Birds, Squids Odyssey is a surprisingly addictive title that’ll keep you coming back for more.
Unlike that mobile game, though, there’s actually quite a lot of depth here that goes beyond mere squid flinging. An RPG of sorts, featuring turn-based combat and a surprising amount of dialogue and narrative, Squids Odyssey offers Wii U and 3DS owners a unique experience that stands out from pretty much everything else in its price point in the Nintendo eShop.
Originally developed by The Game Bakers for iOS, a move to Nintendo’s touch-enabled systems was a sensible move for the studio, with players able to utilize the GamePad or 3DS’ bottom screen to control the power and direction of each flick. For those of you who continue to resist more tactile titles, you can always opt to go for a more traditional input method instead – but you’ll be missing out on some of the finer points of gameplay should that be the case.
The narrative here isn’t exactly high class stuff, but it’s executed incredibly well, in such a way that somehow manages to draw you into the squids’ battle to save their underwater home from some dodgy goo. The dialogue is similarly iffy, but everything comes together to deliver a leftfield dose of offbeat goodness.
The game itself consists of several main mechanics, the first of which is the aforementioned squid-flinging. Like other titles that employ similar control systems, you’ll choose the strength and direction of each fling, allowing you to explore each of the beautifully designed levels, open some whoop-ass on nearby enemies or gather shiny pearls and treasure to spend on upgrades later on.
Each of the squids has its own special ability, and most of them prove to be very useful at one stage or another. These can range from adding a post-fling boost to send your squid off in another direction to special attacks that’ll dole out extra damage to your foes. Like other turn-based games, you’ll move each member of your squad individually before your enemies have their chance to move into position or attack. At times the order of who goes when can be a little strange, but that pretty much fits in with the rest of an already-bizarre offering.
As you progress, new squids will join your squad, allowing you to assemble an army worthy of vanquishing your foe and reclaiming your kingdom. There are times (probably more often than not if you’re anything like us) where you’ll completely forget about your new additions, but with a willingness to experiment you’ll find you’re rewarded with plenty of additional depth, and some new tactics that’ll change how you approach some of the later levels. It certainly pays to rotate your active roster and ensure that everyone is levelling up on a frequent basis.
To make your squids even more effective on the battlefield, you’ll be able to spend the pearls you collect throughout on new hats to increase their statistics or boost your special moves, because clearly The Game Bakers thought the game lacked in the silliness stakes…
Ultimately, almost everything here works far better than it sounds on paper. The 3-star style rating system for completed levels is a little clichéd at this stage, and probably has no right to exist outside the mobile realm, but it definitely adds plenty of longevity to proceedings as you return to previous levels in an attempt to find all the collectibles (including the secret star) hidden away in each and pick up all three stars along the way. The menus are a little uninspired, which definitely detracts given the amount of them you’ll need to work your way through in order to sort your roster, spend your pearls or just wade through the dialogue, but that’s a minor enough quibble.
The fact is that, for a game that could have been dull and uninspired, Squids Odyssey is actually pretty fantastic. If you like your games as nuts as they are colourful then this will be right up your alley, and with so much to do, so many 3-star scores to rack up and an abundance of hats to kit your squids out in, this goes well beyond the remit of a $14.99 digital title. It’s as awesome as it is crazy, and it’s VERY crazy.