An unpleasant sludge is corrupting the ocean, but thankfully a team of likeable heroes is ready to spring into action and save the kingdom. Their mission will be fraught with danger but hopefully they can avoid becoming calamari. Squids Odyssey isn’t actually a new game, but an amalgamation of two previous releases. The original Squids was released way back in 2011 and a Wild West themed sequel was released a year later. The game proved popular enough to warrant a release on a range of Nintendo platforms.
These console versions were entitled Squids Odyssey and merged the two previous releases into one continuous adventure, whilst adding some extra content of its own. Now, this latest version has made its way back to mobile devices. This is great because the well-received original games fell by the wayside and will no longer work on modern devices. What isn’t so great is that at the time of writing the App Store doesn’t make it clear that this is not an original game. In respect to past customers, the publishers really should make this more transparent.
Squids Odyssey is a light-hearted turn-based strategy game in which you command a squad of squid. The big difference is that instead of using action points to move your guys around the map, you instead catapult them across the screen. This is achieved by dragging their elastic appendages back with your finger before sending them hurtling across the landscape. This landscape in question is usually full of hazards. Care needs to be taken to avoid spiky sea urchins and to ensure that your squid doesn’t end up plunging off a narrow path into an abyss. The environments are also home to a range of crustacean enemies who will be doing their best to bash you into oblivion.
Moving around the screen costs stamina and you can usually squeeze at least two full powered flings from a squid on each turn. When a little more finesse is required you can reduce the power to ensure accurate positioning. Combat is hugely enjoyable; launch your squid into the melee and watch the mayhem ensue. Squid ricochet around the environment rebounding from enemies whilst inflicting damage or sending them plummeting to their doom. The physics are solid with just the right level of inertia to ensure that the game doesn’t descend into total chaos. Scattered around each map are bonus bottles that contain numerous helpful consumables. These give various buffs such as stamina boosts or protective spiky shells. Public Health Warning: A squid really has to make sure that it chews its food properly, as their epiglottis runs through the middle of their doughnut-shaped brains.
You can build your party from a range of fifteen different squid, each of which will fall into one of four categories. Scouts can increase their movement and offensive capabilities by employing an extra dash action. Shooters can attack from a distance, whilst troopers have an area attack that can strike multiple enemies. Finally, healers can give a health-restoring hug – I imagine that a hug from a squid is something to remember. Your squid can further improve their abilities by wearing one of a multitude of different hats, or by increasing their overall skill levels. Obtaining hats and level upgrades cost pearls, which can be obtained as you progress through each level. Pearls can also be used to purchase various special items from the shop.
The squid games have always looked great and presentation has further benefited from the extra polish of a console release. There are some terrific cartoon visuals, cheery music and an engaging comical storyline. It feels like you have stepped into an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, complete with an array of oddball aquatic characters. Apart from Bikini Bottom style levels, your squad will also battle through levels inspired by ancient Greece, imperial Japan and the Wild West. In total there are over ninety levels, with an estimated playtime of fifteen hours and that is even before you consider the expert mode. Perfectionists can also strive for faultless three-star ratings. A star is awarded for completing the level in a set number of turns, another for keeping all party members alive and the final star is hidden somewhere within the environment.
The levels are quite varied, with strong currents and warp gates adding to the challenge. There are even seahorse mounts that you can saddle up and ride into battle. On some levels you will simply be heading for the exit, whilst on others, you will need to survive for a set number of turns. There are also some more arcade-style levels that will have you trying to traverse spiky mazes as quickly as possible. One issue is that the difficulty curve is rather inconsistent. The first few Wild West levels that actually appear later in the game feel like a return to the initial training levels. As you would expect from a game designed for touchscreen the controls are responsive and smooth. The only problem I had was that triggering special powers sometimes felt unresponsive and on occasion caused the entire game to crash.
Despite the simple premise and cartoony characters, you will find that there is a lot more depth to Squids Odyssey than initial impressions suggest. Ensuring that your cephalopods are not left isolated, using the environment to your advantage and judging ranges to ensure that you hit with the maximum momentum, all need to be considered. The mix of straightforward tactics and simple arcade gameplay may sound like a bit of a gimmick but the ideas have been implemented really well. These is enough variety to maintain interest and although the challenge will not trouble most players, the game does come with a generous supply of levels without any IAPs in sight.