Squids proves that things are still better down where it’s wetter
When you think of squids, you probably think about slimy sea creatures or tasty calamari or —if you’re a fan of the classics— that monster that attacked the Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Until now, our tentacled friends aren’t exactly known for being cute and cuddly. That’s all about to change, though, thanks to Squids, the first game from The Game Bakers. And with how great this game is, it looks like squids are about to get a massive public image adjustment for the better.
The story here starts off with a group of squids who style themselves as freelance archaeologists (read: temple robbers). These little guys manage to get their hands on some truly amazing loot and suddenly find other sea creatures (covered in a mysterious black ooze) attacking them. The group winds up coming across some grizzled old soldier squids who’ve seen this all before, and suddenly the heroes are off to build a force capable of returning order to the seas.
What’s really great about this plot is that it wouldn’t feel out of place in an epic fantasy or science-fiction setting. There’s a wide range of well-written characters, a heroic last stand, and some truly fun moments of adventure. The fact that it takes place from the perspective of some cartoony squids that look like they’re straight out of a Disney movie makes things feel simultaneously goofy and adorable.
And “adorable” is a word that’s going to come up a lot with this game. In fact, this is one of best-looking games that’s ever come out for mobile devices. The visuals appear to be hand-drawn, complete with watercolor backgrounds and totally unique-looking characters loaded with personality. The story unfolds via painted still-images that are jaw-dropping to look at.
The music, too, is just as excellent as the visual style. The soundtrack feels like it’s straight out of a Caribbean album; it’s playful, fun, and never feels repetitive.
And Squids is a title with gameplay to match these amazing production values. This is a top-down, turn-based tactical RPG with some play elements that feel a little a little inspired by Angry Birds. In order to move the titular squids around a map (or perform basic attacks), you have to pull on their tentacles, dragging them back like one would a slingshot. Each squid has a set amount of action points (represented in the form of bubbles) to use each turn; the further you draw back on one’s tentacles, the more points are used up thanks to the added speed and power.
Squids perform basic attacks by being shot at their enemies, but each has special ability that they can utilize a certain number of times each turn. For one squid, it’s a dash that can do extra damage, another has an area attack that can knock all opponents within range backwards, while another character can heal her teammates.
The levels themselves also feature a fair amount of strategic elements. Certain objects like spiny sea urchins will cause extra damage if a creature collides with them, while jars contain bonus/unlockable items that can extend a player’s turn, and water currents can quickly move characters around the map with a smaller action point expenditure. This makes gameplay much deeper than it first appears. Case in point: instead of just hitting an enemy as hard as possible, you can play things smart and instead hit them at a specific angle and knock them into a current, which will then slam the creature into a sea urchin across the screen (which will do a lot more damage than a regular attack).
Meanwhile, taking out opponents and completing levels rewards players with pearls, which can be used to buy new characters, items, and equipment from the game’s shop. Pearls can also be spent on leveling the squids up, which boosts their statistics. Now, playing through the game (and replaying levels) can certainly earn enough pearls to keep the squids swimming in high-powered goods, but there’s also an option to spend a little real-world money on the in-game pearls. That said, it never feels like you need to spend money in order to play the game as it’s meant to be played.
Squids is a rarer find than an all-natural Tahitian pearl. From the gameplay to the graphics to the sound, everything here is pitch-perfect. More importantly, it’s impossible to come away from the game without wearing a damn idiot grin on your face. It’s great.