Squids Odyssey Review: Cepholopod Pool
It's taken some time, but the sea creature-slinging mix of action strategy and RPG in SQUIDS Odyssey has finally managed to make the cross-platform jump from the Wii U to the Nintendo 3DS.
Currently available only for digital download in the Nintendo eShop, the latest offering from The Game Bakers' popular SQUIDS franchise combines casual combat, quick levels ideal for on-the-go play, and a surprisingly strong storyline inspired by old-school JRPGs.
On the surface, the story is simple.
What begins as a quiet heist in a peaceful underwater kingdom with a motley crew intent on liberating some choice treasures is quickly threatened as a mysterious black ooze seeps into the sea. Suddenly, the three friends find themselves pitted against an army of ooze-infected crab and shrimp and must now band together with other crazy-colored cephalopods to fight back using both their specialized skills and their unique underwater surroundings.
With four different hero classes and an enormous collection of stat-boosting helmets scattered around the world, players can power up their Squids and add an extra element of strategy to their gameplay. These helmet effects are cumulative so you can style your Squid heroes just the way you like them.
Unfortunately, while plenty of new squids will pop up in your party as you progress through the story, they won't have any individual skills that seperate them from any of the others in the same class - although there will be some differences in stats.
This was a major criticism of the original Wii U version which holds true in this port to the 3DS - and is attributed as laziness on the part of the creators. Of course, the bright side of the situation is that players will undeniably gravitate to certain favorites among the plucky squid heroes and this sameness in skills means that their choice of favorites won't impact their overall character bonuses and party effectiveness.
At heart, SQUIDS Odyssey is a simple game.
The Squids' tentacles act like springs and using the 3DS stylus, can be stretched out in any direction. Once released, the Squid is propelled towards its target to either grab or attack. In addition, each of the hero classes have extra abilities:
- Healers: give back a little health to any Squids they come in contact with
- Scouts: make a few short bursts of extra movement
- Troopers: cast a single AOE shockwave once per turn
- Shooters: aim and shoot an enemy target once per turn
Since the direction and power of each Squid slingshot can be controlled with either the circle pad or stylus, movements made in the 3DS version are much smoother and more responsive compared to using the Wii U control stick.
Furthermore, possibly drawing on its roots as a mobile game franchise and its distinct cartoony style, this game feels particularly suited to playing on a small screen versus a TV.
In the same vein, the Pearl currency also feels like a vestigial throwback to in-game mobile transactions which you can use to purchase upgrades and fancy hats in the store. Thankfully, there are no extra charges or microtransactions.
Look and Feel
In its transition to the 3DS, the creators have made obvious attempts to do more than just create a straight port. The 3DS may not provide the player with the hi-def TV experience of the Wii U, but there has been noticeable effort into adding extra thematic water effects and use of depth for each level.
Unfortunately, there are limits to the extra efforts in bringing Squids Odyssey to the 3DS - cutscenes and menus play on both screens so that a good opportunity to utilize both screens is lost.
The soundtrack sports between light and bubbly ukulele to more serious tones during battles. You will not remember this game for the music, but it is a pleasant, light-hearted, and fits well with the simplicity of gameplay.
Since Odyssey is not voice-acted, cute, quirky dialogue text and music carry the full weight of the storytelling narrative. Loading screens provide a short interim of cute "loading processes" for each of the Squids (e.g. Steev is checking for Twitter updates...) that keep the game light-hearted and kid-friendly.
As a $14.99 download from the Nintendo eShop, this may be a harder swallow for those of us glutted by too many "free" mobile games - but it plays as a solid pick-up-and-go that still manages to present a cohesive story. In this sense, it rises up above the majority of brainless tap-and-swipers... but I would still argue that it is still too high a price to pay for "okay."
(UPDATE: Through October 30, SQUIDS Odyssey for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS is marked down 50%-60% in every territory where it's available. That comes out to $5.99 in North America, £4.99 in the UK, €5.99 in other parts of Europe... you get the idea. For those of you who have been hitting the price wall, I would recommend picking this game up at 50% off.)
This is a game that was made for mobile, and plays more appropriately on the 3DS than the Wii U... although for those of you in Europe, you might not have to choose.
For UK gamers!
When you buy the 3DS version of Squids Odyssey, you get the Wii U version for free!
(Please note: Your Wii U and Nintendo 3DS must be linked with the same Nintendo Network ID to take advantage of this promotion.)