Squids is a game that combines simple action and RPG mechanics to make a fun and light, if somewhat easy, gameplay experience. The music is catchy, the sound effects are adorable, the visual design is neat, and the gameplay has some real promise. It’s too bad that the game is incredibly short and really feels like the iPhone game that it is. I really enjoyed my time with Squids, but the length may be an issue to some gamers, especially considering the longevity of other cheap downloadables.
You will spend most of your time in squids taking on the various missions required by the story to defeat the Black Ooze. During missions, you click on your squid and drag the mouse back to determine the power of your shot. As you hit enemies you damage them and eventually kill them. Each squid has a finite amount of stamina, which you need for shooting. When your squid is out of stamina, the game moves on to the next squid in your team. After all your squids have gone, the enemies take a turn. Each squid belongs to a class with special abilities. Scouts have greater maneuverability via a boost system, shooters can fire projectiles, troopers can smash the ground for an area-of-affect attack, and healers cure friendly squids when they bump into them. After each mission you can buy upgrades in the form of helmets, items, and levels for your squids. This is where the RPG element comes in, but all gear bonuses stack and you will be short of the level cap by the end of the game. It basically means you really don’t need to plan ahead very much.
The game does a commendable job of mixing up objectives. Sometimes you need to survive for a number of turns, navigate an obstacle course, or destroy all enemies. Unfortunately none of these objectives are particularly difficult and the game suffers for it. There is no challenge to slow you, or abundance of levels to conquer. You could play through the game to find hidden stars, but there is little incentive to do so and thus no replay. The result is an incredibly short game. It took me between two and three hours to finish the main game of twenty one missions. Afterwards there is some bonus content in the form of extra missions, but I didn’t feel the need to play through more than the first couple. No matter what, the game is short, so even if you enjoy it more than I did you will be wanting more. The lack of challenge lowers replay value and makes it feel as though you are just going through the motions rather than striving to achieve a goal. I really did enjoy the basic gameplay for most of the game, but as time wore on, I found myself increasingly disengaged.
Presentation is Squid’s strength. The graphics look great on a PC screen. The characters and backgrounds are clear and crisp, which is commendable as the original screens were much smaller. The cartoony look of the squids is very compelling. Each character has a unique look and personality that bring the undersea world to life. The music is also excellent with steel drums and other tropical affects that make me long for the beaches of Hawaii. Sound effects also evoke the mood with adorable squid voices, nice meaty thunks for impact, and other touches that actively made the experience of playing Squids more enjoyable. Every time I clicked on a squid, there cute voice made me smile. The presentation was strong enough to carry me through the main story, even as the gameplay became somewhat tedious.
Despite its flaws, Squids is fun. The game is fairly low stress, and when that is combined with its wonderful music and visual design, it can really suck you in. It’s a shame that after a certain point playing the game becomes a chore, as the enemies feel too weak for your squids and the challenge not stiff enough for your skills. Squids is a game best played in short bursts. Playing through a five or ten minute mission would be a nice way to calm down or pass the time on the bus. It is largely for this reason that I would recommend at least considering the iOS version as the short gameplay and lack of challenge are more conducive for gaming on that device.
I did enjoy Squids and people should definitely check it out, but I don’t think I can recommend that players purchase Squids on the PC. The pacing and length seem far more suited to its $2 app price tag rather than the $7 PC version. Still if you are like me and don’t have an iOS or Android device, it’s worth considering dropping some cash on this charming action RPG.