Squids, a physics-based adventure game developed by The Game Bakers, is now available from the app store. Featuring a charming graphical style, simple slingshot controls, and light RPG elements, Squids is a promising title that’s fun for all ages.
- Beautiful aesthetics and nice animations give the levels an “alive” feel
- Unique characters classes, stats, and special moves
- Varied level focus keeps game fresh
- Fun slingshot physics
- GameCenter and OpenFeint integration for leaderboards and achievements
- Only 20 levels at launch
- Some grinding may be required to earn pearls for late-game purchases
- Text-based dialogue not as enjoyable as voiceovers would be
When a mysterious black ooze threatens to destroy the maritime ecosystem and corrupt its occupants, it’s up to a handful of courageous squids to fend off the goo and vanquish any creatures infected with its mal intent. There are 20 levels to play through, each with a different focus and purpose. Some will see you defeating all enemies, others will have you surviving a number of rounds of combat, still others see you retrieving certain items, and so on. The core four heroes each harbor a unique ability, as well as varying statistics across a number of attributes like health, armor, and the like. One squid heals her comrades by bumping into them, another has a dash ability, a third can unleash a powerful stomp to injure nearby enemies, and still another has a bubble gun to fire at enemies within a sizeable range.
Squid movements are generally controlled by dragging backward in the opposite direction that you want to fling the creature, then release your finger to let ‘er rip. Bubbles that surround each hero represent their stamina, and you can keep flinging them as long as they still have at least one bubble. The farther you pull back, the more bubbles you use up. This does allow for multiple flings of each creature on one turn, giving the game a billiards-type feel at times as you set up your creatures final movements for protection or strategic reasons. Knocking enemies off of the platforms and “scratching” by sending one of your own guys careening into oblivion further reinforces the billiards quality of the game. The turn-based combat is a surprisingly engaging aspect of the game that we’d love to see more of in additional levels.
There are a number of special power-up canisters to be snagged in each level, offering renewed stamina, more powerful attacks, ink cloud protection, spiky shell protection, etc. Pearls, the in-game currency of choice, can be collected from treasure chests and defeated enemies. They can be exchanged for new characters, character upgrades (hence the RPG elements) or purchasing a variety of helmets that are unlocked over the course of the game. Combo movements can yield a high number of pearls and there are several ways to pull off combos, such as hitting multiple enemies in the same move, bouncing off of objects, long-range shots, healing multiple heroes at once, and more. Level success is measured both in points and in a 3-star system that awards one star for the survival of all heroes, a second star for finishing within an allotted number of turns, and a third star for finding the star hidden within each level.
Graphically, Squids has a whimsical and pleasing storybook feel to it, with soft pastel colors and plenty of great underwater visuals. The story plays out through static imagery and text box dialogue, which is skippable if preferred. Damage done in combat is reflected in a numbered pop-up and a diminishing health bar. We would have liked to see a little voice work to enhance the experience, as the reading breaks are kind of dull. The soundtrack is equally whimsical and airy, offering a light-hearted backdrop that nicely complements the gameplay. Controls are easy to use, requiring familiar slingshot mechanics and taps to unleash special attacks. Swiping the background allows you to pan around and pinching allows you to zoom in or out.
Replay value is good, as some stars may take multiple attempts to earn. Once you’ve collected them all, there isn’t much reason to return other than to enjoy the art style and combat sequences again. GameCenter and OpenFeint integration brings global leaderboards and nearly 2 dozen achievements into play. There is IAP for buying lots of pearls, in the event you want to go that route instead of earning your way through the game. At $0.99, Squids is solid 4-Dimple fun.