System(s): 3DS (Also available for Wii U)
Release Date: July 3, 2014
Publisher (Developer): The Game Bakers (The Game Bakers)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone” for Mild Fantasy Violence
SQUIDS Odyssey is the jam-packed, handheld debut of The Game Bakers’ up and coming franchise based on a ragtag group of cephalopods who wear funny hats and kick a ton of undersea ass. First appearing on mobile markets in 2013, SQUIDS has spawned a sequel, comic book, and The Game Bakers are also planning merchandise and a cartoon series. This it it, folks, the latest challenger of Angry Birds — squids in hats.
The 3DS and Wii U version of SQUIDS Odyssey, which is actually available as Nintendo’s first cross-compatible purchase in Europe, is a compilation of the two mobile games (SQUIDS and SQUIDS Wild West) with a set of new levels and other console-exclusive goodies. So, there’s a lot of content here for the price. Pretty solid content too, if the prototypical mobile-puzzle-action game is your thing.
SQUIDS Odyssey’s big novelty is that the game is presented as a turn-based, strategic RPG, complete with an emphasized story and thorough character progression. Yet, it also sports an active, skill-based, play style. The general setup here is that a mysterious goo is coating all the ocean life, turning it evil in the process. A perpetually-expanding army of squids wearing extravagant headgear, and sometimes enormous mustaches, is the only force in the way of ocean-wide calamity.
While the marketing for SQUIDS Odyssey oversells the RPG aspect of it all, The Game Bakers never mistakes ambition for pretense. The flavor text is appropriately silly, light fare throughout. What really sells the world of SQUIDS Odyssey is its sense of character. Everything is bright and colorful, and the creativity on display with the character designs is as impressive as it is hilarious. Despite the entire cast comprising, well, squids, each character looks and acts unique, even if there isn’t as much mechanical variety.
I made sure to mention Angry Birds earlier because SQUIDS Odyssey plays and is structured very similarly. It follows the tried and true formula of, “Play all these levels, but also do well enough to earn all three stars in each one.” Earning stars gets you more money, which you can turn into upgrades. Upgrades are probably the most interesting part of SQUIDS Odyssey. It would be dishonest to suggest they’re actually anything more complicated than growing numbers, but the “feel” of the number crunching stands out.
In addition to just, “pay coins; get level ups,” you can also purchase hats for each class of squid. These hats all have different stats, but instead of having to decide which one is better, buying a new hat transfers the stat points directly to the squid itself. You can then freely choose hats based on how cool or silly they are. In hindsight, it cheapens the sense of progression a little, but it’s proof the developers thought outside of the box and it’s nice to not have to think too hard about numbers in a game like this.
In combat, you pull on a squid’s tentacles to launch it across the board. Damage is, of course, dealt on contact, but depending on your items, abilities and how your squid bounces around the terrain, you can capitalize on a situation and deal even more. You can also straight-up knock an enemy off of the edge of a map, killing it instantly. It’s also possible to overshoot and send your idiot squid sailing into the next dimension. You can always launch an intense offense but new enemies tend to spawn after clearing a room, so positioning quickly becomes a crucial factor, especially as the difficulty rises.
So, the crux of SQUIDS Odyssey is pulling back a squid, letting it go and crashing into things. Sound familiar? Still, there’s more than enough here to set it apart, especially the scale of each level. One of the major differences between each squid class is launching distance, and levels are designed to make any team viable. You can rush ahead with a scout to finish quickly for an extra star, or take it slow with the craftier classes. Mission objectives vary, and you can always replay levels to get stars you missed the first time. This is a mobile game through and through, designed for playing at any pace.
Squids for days, son
As fun, accessible and creative as SQUIDS Odyssey is, it still falls victim to the usual pitfalls of mobile games. It gets pretty old, pretty quickly. This isn’t a game that’ll pull you in and erase an entire day before you even notice. The sort-of-but-not-really genre hybrid thing going on also holds it back from being as complex as it seems, making later levels start blend into one another. I’m having a hard time imagining sitting down in front of a TV with the Wii U version and having a good time.
SQUIDS Odyssey is an all-around, solid mobile game. It has a gimmick, runs with it and keeps things simple along the way. The Game Bakers certainly has a talented crew behind it, and it’s obvious why SQUIDS is quietly becoming a bigger deal as time passes. That said, SQUIDS Odyssey doesn’t quite have the substance to make it as compelling on a console as it is on a mobile device and the much higher price point will be hard for most to justify.