Review: SQUIDS Odyssey (Nintendo 3DS)

squidsiconSQUIDS Odyssey
Publisher: The Game Bakers
Developer: The Game Bakers
Genre: Tactical RPG
Release Date: 07/03/2014

So SQUIDS Odyssey (SO for short) is a game that’s gotten quite a bit of attention recently. In the UK, it’s become the first “cross-buy” game for the Nintendo consoles. UK users who buy the game on the 3DS will get a free copy of the game for the Wii U. This kind of process has worked great for Sony, and it’s great that Nintendo is at least dipping its toe in the water. Of course, we here in the good old USA aren’t getting that deal, so it’s still just a pipe dream.

This game was released earlier this year on Wii U. Our own Sean Madson reviewed it, and you can read that review here. Also, this game is actually a compilation of several mobile releases into a whole package. The series is still ongoing, meaning this is basically a first volume. I wish that fact was more readily available.

squids1SO starts off with a group of squids looking to break into an ancient temple for the purposes of treasure looting. Unfortunately, what they find is a black ooze that is corrupting the sea life. This black ooze, which threatened the sea before, basically turns anything it touches into a monstrous version of itself. It also kills plants, which is certainly not good. The squids must start off on a journey to gather warriors and put a stop to this threat. It’s not the most ambitious of setups, but it gets the job done.

The story as a whole is actually quite interesting. Between and during missions, the squids will converse among themselves. Each squid is given its own personality and a bit of back story. The game finds time to introduce side plots and characters that also help flesh out the story. I actually started to care about these little buggers and their plight. While the story doesn’t really conclude, it manages to be quite entertaining for as long as it lasts.

Visually, the game has a cartoon style. The squids are all anthropomorphic. They have expressive faces, wear human clothes, and use their tentacles to create various poses to help sell what they’re saying. The game world itself has a pretty good look to it. The bright colors that you would associate with the sea are in full effect, although it can look a little bleached at times. The camera is a bit zoomed out to give you a larger view of the field, which has the sad effect of sometimes making it hard to see what’s going on. The game could also use a bit more work in the animations department, since most of the game feels like you’re just watching cutouts slide across the screen. The look is enjoyable overall though. The 3D adds some depth (as you might imagine), but I often found it distracting. It can be hard to make precise shots when you’re focused on holding the system in just the right way for the visual effect.

squids2For aural effects, the game mostly relies on popping sounds and high pitched grunts of pain. It actually fits, and can be amusing if it doesn’t result in the death of one your squids. The music fits the them for each level, and can be quite catchy. However, I often found myself turning the sound off in order to listen to something a tad more interesting.

This game is often described as Angry Birds meets Final Fantasy Tactics. I’d say it’s more of a Shuffleboard RPG. While there are physics involved, those physics are more about sliding things around as opposed to knocking things over. The character customization is also not nearly on the level of a more advanced tactical game. However, the combination of the action oriented combat and the RPG systems make for an enjoyable experience.

The goals for each level change as you progress as well. Sometimes you need to defeat enemies, sometimes you need to activate switches, and sometimes you need to simply get to the other side of the map. The method for doing all of these things is the same though. In order to move your squid, you have to pull back on their tentacles to launch them in any direction. You can do this with the circle pad or the stylus, although the stylus is ideal for precise shots. Each squid has a stamina meter that is drained by pulling back. If you pull back a little, they use less stamina. This allows you to make several movements per turn. If you don’t like where you’re at, you can use little stamina to readjust yourself before pulling back for a big shot. Using this mechanic, you can smack into enemies to deal damage. You’ll also send them flying in that direction. This can send them bouncing into a wall, flying off the stage, or even into a conveniently placed group of urchins.

squids3The RPG elements become apparent right away. Every squid and enemy has stats, so you can’t just smack an enemy and call it a day. They have HP and defenses that must be countered by your squid’s attack stat. You also have four different squid classes to choose from. These include scout, trooper, shooter, and healer. Scouts can make an extra dash move to really zoom across the field, as well as hit an enemy multiple times per move. Troopers are slow, but can use an area of effect attack that is pretty useful against groups. The shooter can, as you might have guessed, fire projectiles that hurt enemies without having to launch him/her at said enemy. Finally, we have the healer, which heals your squids by smacking to them. You can level up your troops by spending cash in between levels, and there are consumables to use and equipment you can put onto your troops. It’s pretty standard, and there’s nothing too deep to consider. However, you are able to mix and match your troops so that you can form different kinds of parties. Also, you can set them up to take turns in whatever order you want.

Equipment is handled a bit differently in this game. Firstly, the only equipment is a helmet. When you buy a helmet, you don’t actually need to equip it to use it. Instead, you transfer its stat bonuses to your squid. This allows you to get bonuses while still picking your equipment based on your fashion needs. Each helmet is specific to a class, although you only need to buy the item once in order to get the bonus for each squid of that class. Also, you do still have to manually transfer the power for each helmet and for each squid.

There are dozens and dozens of levels to complete. They are separated by episodes, which are unlocked in order as you progress. Episodes can range from a few levels to double digits. Each episode has one main goal to complete in order to beat the level. They each also have three optional goals that increase your rank on that level as well as earn you pearls. Those goals are always the same though. They are win without losing a squid, win in a certain number of turns, and find a secret star on each level.

Pearls are the game’s currency. You get them by completing objectives, defeating enemies, and by making trick shots. For example, if you knock an enemy into another enemy you’ll get bonus pearls for that. Since you only level up by spending pearls, you’ll want to earn them as much as possible. You can replay past levels if you want, which helps with the grind.

squids4This game works because of the tactile nature of the combat. It’s simply good fun to send your troops flying into a group of enemies. There’s a surprising amount of variety to the game as well. Some levels are purely combat based, but others require a bit of puzzle solving and finesse to complete. For example, one level has you chasing down a seahorse so that you can use it as a mount. The seahorse is much faster than you, and will get away if you can’t catch up. The trick is to use shortcuts and also grab items along the way that restore your stamina. You also still have to avoid obstacles. When you finally the hang of it, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment.

If you’re a fan of tactical RPGs, this game might not initially seem all that interesting. In fact, it’s a lighter, more tactile game than you’re used to. However, it serves as a nice break from more serious games while still offering a decent challenge. It can also serve a gateway to people looking to get into more strategic games. I think it has a decent amount of appeal in that regard.

Short Attention Span Summary

diehardjack1-150x150SQUIDS Odyssey is a fun game that combines the best elements of shuffleboard with enough RPG elements to make a deeper experience. Slamming your squids into enemies for a critical hit is simply way more fun than you would imagine. It’s not a horribly complicated game, but it has enough to hold your interest for sure. If you’re looking for a lighter adventure, or if you want a good starter in order to get into tactical games, this is certainly something worth your attention.

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