May 29, 2012
If Angry Birds has taught us one thing, it’s that pigs can’t be trusted. But given that Animal Farm taught us that decades ago, it’s probably best to pick out a second lesson: people can’t get enough of a control scheme that sees them pinging critters around with swipes of the touch screen. Squids, an arcade RPG-lite kind of game, uses this increasingly popular mechanic to great effect.
In a bright colourful undersea world, players manage a squad of squids in an adventure to save the land below sea-level. Each of the 22 levels sees the team having to get from one end of the map to the other, taking on enemies as they move along.
In general, movement and combat are one and the same. The player pulls back on the squid they want to move, and either fires them into space or into an enemy. Knock into an enemy hard enough, and you’ll take down their health metre a bit – or better still, send them flying off down a hole for an instant kill.
So far, so soggy Angry Birds, but what really sets this apart is the skills of each squid, and the fact that they level up as time progresses allowing boosts in health, attack, defense, stamina or their special skill. It’s not exactly Skyrim, it certainly adds a bit more depth to a fun concept.
The controls are pretty effective for the most part: forgiving enough, while still allowing the player to feel proud of pool style potting of enemies. Smaller screens can feel a little fiddly at times, and did cause a couple of accidental deaths, but for the most part it works well enough, and the satisfying moments more than outweigh the occasional frustrating bits.
While it’s a paid app on iOS, Squids is free to download on Android. It does allow players to buy extra pearls (found by exploring the world and defeating enemies) in order to level up quicker and to buy power ups, like the powerful kraken that will appear and weaken every enemy on screen. In my experience though, spending money isn’t essential, which is exactly the way freemium should be. You get experience points from every retry of a level, so even struggling players should be able to muscle past the game’s difficulty spikes with time.
Aside from the difficulty spikes starting around level 11, the only other real weakness with the game is its repetitive gameplay. Although there’s real strategy to it, the levels are all about exploring, or surviving for a certain amount of rounds. There’s not a great deal to separate most of the levels apart.
Still, it’s hardly the first mobile title to suffer from being slightly repetitive, and everything else is in place. Despite some minor teething problems, Squids is an original concept that’s well worth trying. When it has its tentacled grips around you, it’s very difficult to slip away from its charms, and Android gamers should be thrilled that a premium app is available to play through free of charge on their handset.