Squids Odyssey - Review  

Take Your Stinking Tentacles Off Me, You Damned Dirty Squid!
by Mike "JuMeSyn" Moehnke

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Less than 20 Hours
+ Interesting ideas
+ Plenty of content
- Be careful of crashes
- Difficult to observe everything
- Falling off cliffs
- Needs pathfinding
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   Squids Odyssey joins a growing group of RPGs that originated on mobile platforms before seeing ports to other systems. It also joins the less prestigious part of that group which needed a little more quality assurance before sale to the masses, though it's possible that the Wii U rendition turned out better. The idea of commanding a few squid taking on evil crustaceans along the sea bed with touch mechanics is a decent one, but as realized on 3DS it's a colossal pain to experience.

   Action in Squids Odyssey is turn based and tactical, with objectives to reach and foes to defeat on each map, but the touch mechanic is integral to how it is implemented. Instead of simply using the D-pad, players need to apply force to a squid in order to propel it in the opposite direction, which can be done with either the analog stick or the stylus on the touch screen. Each cephalopod has a certain number of action points to use per turn, which can be slowly applied via tiny movements or quickly dispensed with maximum stretching. All of the squid will damage enemies if they collide, and a close-range maximum stretch hurts far more than any other means of contact, but there are four classes with unique abilities to vary the means by which foes can go down.

   The missing ingredient in this stretch mechanic is any way of easily figuring out where a squid will go before actually making the move. Practice will help, but in a game with numerous pointy obstacles and intrusive water currents that can get in the way, not wasting plenty of action points would be extremely helpful. Relying on dead reckoning by the player also makes it possible to aim for something and narrowly miss, which can matter quite a bit. Even seeing where a squid will go can require a bit of memorization, because zooming outward to get a better view of the map reverts back to the closest angle for actual movement.

   The lack of clear pathfinding matters a great deal when the prevalence of pits in Squids Odyssey is considered. The slightest misstep by a cephalopod will often result in falling into the abyss, leading to certain narrow passages that must be navigated with the utmost caution. Enemies are prone to knocking the protagonists off cliffs, and while the same can be done to them, the ranks of adversaries tend to have much more margin for error. Most of the maps have yawning abysses just waiting for foolhardy squid to fall down, though the developers have included a good enough variety of missions that avoiding the deep is simple on some.

Despite the name, there are no first-person shooter hijinks to experience. Despite the name, there are no first-person shooter hijinks to experience.

   These issues make Squids Odyssey quite frustrating in places, but several other aspects make the difficulty fluctuate. Each map has automatically recurring items with random effects, such as giving a squid back some stamina or launching a fusillade of projectiles. Extra items like these can be purchased with sufficient funds, and the ability to keep acquired goods even if the mission is lost will allow patient perseverance to pay off. Enemy AI will not be a stumbling block, as foes tend not to move until a character is in range.

   There is no experience in Squids Odyssey, but the tentacled warriors can level up if some cash is spent on them. While levels are useful, even more helpful is the variety of headgear unlocked as the game progresses — once a piece is purchased every squid in a class can immediately equip it. The headgear's helpfulness is increased by what may be a bug, in which every hat's attribute bonuses cumulatively stack instead of being limited to one. While buttons have been enabled for equipment selection, it is usually faster to stick to the touch screen, though many of the equipment icons are small enough to require very precise presses.

   The most serious ailment befalling the Squids Odyssey experience is the possibility of it crashing. Full-on crashes can happen at any time, and while the automatic save system at the end of each map precludes losing too much time, being forced to wait while it reboots is never enjoyable. One class of squid soldiers in particular seems prone to making the game experience problems, which means players will probably want to go without the Shooter type if possible. A further technical issue stems from a downloaded title having inexplicably lengthy load times, which greet the player before the start of every map, and recur if that map needs a retry.

In stark contrast to many games, later characters arrive at high levels, making the first lineup redundant. In stark contrast to many games, later characters arrive at high levels, making the first lineup redundant.

   Squids Odyssey's tale begins with a trio of treasure hunting anthropomorphized characters running into an unexpected challenge. Some dark force called the Ooze has reappeared under the waves, and is turning otherwise harmless creatures into bloodthirsty seekers of destruction. Two of the squids flee to find more allies, and the tale of their growing ranks hopping to various locations encompasses the whole of the journey. Since the characters receive no development, caring about what happens to some of them is a challenge, though wondering why squid were singled out from their cephalopod brethren to take center stage makes an intriguing puzzle — though seeing the various groan-worthy movie title puns inserted by the developers is a possible distraction. Plot considerations take up little time while playing anyway, and can be skipped with ease.

   Many of the tracks heard while playing are quite pleasant to the ear, and ingratiating to hear. The art style of the characters and their surroundings is also attractive and detailed, though the use of palette-swapping is high even by RPG standards. The protagonists don't look much like actual squid, but their appearances are distinct enough to avoid confusing them with anything else.

   Even as a compilation of the iOS content, Squids Odyssey ends with a 'to be continued' notification because the story is far from concluded, though developer The Game Bakers is unlikely to wait long for further updates. I feel like I got my fill of calamari with what I've already had though. Unless future installments receive a great deal of fine-tuning, my time with squid does not need extension.

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