Thursday, May 17, 2012

Squids is now available for PC!

Squids was one of the first games I picked up for my iPad, and it remains one of my favorites. It deftly combines a colorful aesthetic with adorable character designs and simple but enjoyable gameplay to create a satisfying casual game that is perfect for handheld devices. The Squids website quotes the Escapist as saying Squids is "The adorable spawn of Angry Birds and FF: Tactics." Even though I have never owned either of those games, it was all the incentive I needed to try it out. Today they announced that Squids is available on PC, and it was already available for iOS, Android, and Mac, so there is no reason not to own Squids!

Unlike many other casual games, Squids actually has a bit of a story attached to it that plays out over the course of the levels. It follows the adventures of a group of mischievous squids who are looting a mysterious temple for pearls (which the squids use for currency) when they accidentally unleash an ancient evil that was trapped there. This evil takes the form of a black ooze which covers shrimps and crabs and turns them evil. The squids fight the crabs and shrimps while recruiting old friends and new to join in their struggle.

Gameplay is simple: on your turn, you pull back your squids' tentacles and release to "fling" them across the map. If they hit an enemy, the enemy takes a bit of damage. Each squid has a stamina rating that indicates how far you can fling them on a turn. Once all your squids are out of stamina, your turn ends, and the enemies fling themselves at you. There are hazards like sea urchins that hurt you if you touch them and crevasses that kill you if you fall off. Each of your squids belongs to one of four classes, and each class has a unique special ability: the Trooper has an area-of-effect stomp, for instance, while the Scout can dash to extend the range of his movement.

One of the things I liked best was the clever way the squids were designed. The best example for me is Clint, whose body is shaped like his namesake's famous poncho. I also enjoyed the way that the sumo squid Sammo gets flung not by pulling back his tentacles, but by pulling down his sumo-diaper. The Squids folks even made a comic to explain the reason for this:
There are a good amount of squids you can collect, and a number of hats you can buy for pearls, TF2 style. There are a fair number of levels, though several get reused at different points in the story. I really enjoyed each new chapter of the story, which often involved conversations between the characters to set up what you have to do in the level.

While the game is ostensibly an RPG in that the characters have classes, stats, and can level up, there is no depth to the RPG mechanics. Similarly, while hats grant you stat bonuses, once you buy a hat you can apply its stats to every character of that class on your roster, and those stats apply regardless  of whether your character is wearing the hat or not. This means that the hat that your characters wear is a matter of visual preference.

I would recommend being prepared to pay an extra dollar beyond the price of the game, since there is an in-app purchase called a "Pearlfish" that you can buy to double the amount of pearls you find on levels. With this bonus, I found that I earned enough pearls to avoid the game becoming a grind. The game also offers to sell you more pearls in additional in-app purchases, but I had enough pearls for unlocking all the characters, hats, and level-ups without needing any additional in-app purchases.

When you play a level, you can earn stars for completing it without losing any Squids, within a certain number of turns, and for finding a starfish that is hidden somewhere on every stage. You can also open treasure chests for pearls and items along the way. I found that the best way to earn everything was to play each level through a couple of times, each time with a different goal in mind. You can often beat a level under the target number of turns by simply rushing through it with a Scout and leaving the rest of your team behind, for instance, while bringing everyone along is a good way to ensure that you can open treasure chests along the way.

The game itself is fairly short. I was able to complete almost everything in a single day while home sick. There is a decent amount of replay value in going back to try to get all the stars, but it shouldn't take too long for someone with decent gaming skills. Some of the later levels took me a number of tries to beat, but patience and a little experimentation got me through.

I should also take a moment to mention the game's soundtrack. The game's creators clearly put some effort into it, and it matches the fun tone of the game quite well. You can preview the soundtrack, and buy it if you like it, on the Squids bandcamp page.

If you're looking for a joyous little game with adorable characters, an upbeat soundtrack, and a fun plot, you should definitely check out Squids.

1 comment:

  1. You may like Land Grabbers. I hope to see a sequel or multiplayer version someday.