Strategic Flick’Em Up -
Mixing the flicking catapult and level progression gameplay of Angry Birds with the strategy of billiards, Squids Odyssey has extended its mobile roots to the Wii U with a 3DS port set to be released soon. It is a simple concept that translates to some clever and entertaining gameplay but is held back by wild difficulty swings and a non-friendly user UI.
In an undersea world reminiscent of the The Little Mermaid, it is up to a pack of personality-filled squids to stop an invading black ooze of their homeland. While the story is simple and ultimately ties together the entire game, the still image cutscenes and dialog between characters before, during, and after each battle are not necessary. Other strategy games, like Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre, use a well written narrative to carry one battle into the next. The same philosophy extends in this 2D overhead flick’em up but it isn’t particularly well written and just slows down the short burst gameplay. Or look at Angry Birds as another example; the player understands that the pigs took the birds eggs. End of story. And this is all the player needs to know. Squids Odyssey tried to be a little too serious when a higher emphasis should have been put on humor and gameplay.
Supporting different character classes to spice up gameplay, players will need to survey each environment and formulate a plan of attack at the start of each battle in order to be successful. Using either the stylus on the Gamepad’s touchscreen or flicking back the analog stick, the player launches squids throughout each stage to collide with enemies and to navigate to the goal. Some squids can additionally shoot a long range attack whereas others can heal if touched by friendlies or larger squids can sumo stomp anything within proximity. Each stage might only last a few minutes but there are several dozens of stages to complete, each with optional bonus objectives. If anything, it will take many hours to play through this entire game let alone try and earn all the optional objectives.
Besides the lackluster dialog segments, there are a couple other elements that ultimately hold this title back from reaching its truly addictive and must have potential. Outside of the first few initial tutorial based stages, there are some random difficulty swings. One stage took me about 10 attempts to complete but the next I was able to breeze through quickly. Another stage I continually got slaughtered with each attempt until, for some reason, passed it without even taking damage on my 6th try. There is really no rhyme or reason behind the mood swings of this downloadable eShop title has but will unnecessarily frustrate from time to time.
Furthering the frustration is the dumb fall off the ledge insta-kill feature. First, there is nothing more frustrating than falling off the edge at the very end of a stage simply because the squid took a bad bounce, got swept away in a current, or got knocked off by the healer’s collision. And secondly, umm hello, these are friggin’ squid that swim in the ocean – there shouldn’t be a ledge to fall off in the first place because they can swim! If they reach the edge of the boarder, so what, they should be able to swim right back. Having insta-kills to create more strategy makes the player think in new ways but is the most frustrating feature here in Squids Odyssey as it is often unfair and simply just doesn’t make any sense from a gameplay perspective.
The menu system is also clunky as navigating the menus awkwardly uses the TV, the buttons on the Gamepad, and the Touchscreen on the Gamepad. It might have worked more intuitively in a mobile environment but isn’t user friendly on the Wii U. Perhaps the upcoming 3DS port will be a little easier to manage especially since players are forced to manually level up characters and determine which upgrades to wear (it is a mystery why these features are not automated).
Despite some flaws but entertainingly simple gameplay, the surprise highlighting feature is the tropical soundtrack. Well composed and catchy, simply just waiting in the cumbersome menu screen is a joy because of the upbeat and pleasurable soundtrack, something that is rare to say about a lower cost eShop title.
Squids Odyssey is a colorful and unique title for the Wii U and is worthy of a download especially if your young one is/was a fan of Angry Birds. The unfortunate blemishes really hold this title back but I guess that is what sequels are for.
Also Try: Feeding Frenzy (XBLA)
Better Than: Scram Kitty and His Buddy on Rails
Wait For It: the 3DS version
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com