Review: 'Squids Odyssey' (Switch)

Gameplay from Squids Odyssey. Gameplay from Squids Odyssey. THE GAME BAKERS

Squids began its life in 2011 as an iOS game, and it was quickly followed by a sequel called Squids Wild West. These two titles were later collected into Squids Odyssey, and like most indie games, it has now made its way to the Switch. Is this game the epic tale its title promises, or does this odyssey end before it begins?

Squids Odyssey has you playing as, naturally, a handful of squids. As an ancient and powerful evil descends upon the sea kingdoms, taking the form of crabs, our heroes must defeat their foes and try to liberate the sea by flinging themselves at their enemies. The game also proceeds into the Wild West after the original Squids is over, and this game also includes a new, console-exclusive chapter. It’s not exactly a mind-bending story, and the game’s presentation doesn’t do it any favors - neither does the writing, for that matter. But this isn’t a game that lives or dies on the strength of its story, so this isn’t a big deal.

Squids Odyssey is mainly based around the game’s combat, which is pretty simplistic but entertaining at the same time. You attack your enemies by stretching out your squid in a certain direction, then letting them go, flinging them in the direction of a crab. If you strike your enemy, you’ll deal damage to them, depending on how fast you were going when you hit them; you’ll also knock them away, which could send them flying into other obstacles or off the edge of the map. Mechanically it’s rather simple, but with the way the difficulty ramps up, you will need to quickly start employing strategy in order to win.

It’s not quite as simple as that, though, as certain squids in your party will have certain abilities, depending on their class. Your squids can be shooters (who can shoot enemies with guns), troopers (who can slam the ground to knock enemies away), scouts (who can dash multiple times per launch to cover extra distance) or healers (who can heal other squids by running into them). Knowing when to use these abilities is more important to victory than you would suspect. You can also find special items strewn across the map that will give you bonus abilities or powers, or bonuses that will give you extra hats, or pearls, which we’ll get more into later.

I was expecting this game to be a cakewalk, but that is absolutely not the case; I found myself dying repeatedly as soon as the fifth level (out of nearly 90 levels). If you throw yourself carelessly at enemies, they’ll end up overwhelming you because they do a pretty large amount of damage when they want to. You’ll need to be both accurate and strategic in order to get past these levels, and that can get pretty difficult when it’s so easy to fall off ledges. This is by far my biggest complaint with the game - it’s way too easy to launch yourself off the edge of a level, which makes you instantly lose your squid, which almost guarantees that you’re going to lose the level under most circumstances. This happened to me a lot, especially when the levels are too large to see all of them, and even more especially when you get the power-up that lets you launch yourself twice as far as normal. This is the biggest problem with the game, but other than that, the main gameplay is surprisingly solid.

The game also has heavy RPG elements in it, which are also vital to take advantage of if you want to beat this game. Each level has several additional objectives (find a hidden star, keep all your squids alive, and beat the level under a certain turn limit), and completing these give you additional pearls; you also get pearls from defeating enemies, or finding them hidden in the levels. These pearls are your currency; you’ll use them to level up your squids and improve their stats, as well as to buy hats to level up your squids even further. In the mobile version of the game, you could buy pearls with real money, but in Squids Odyssey you can only acquire them through the game, which makes the additional objectives even more important.

The hats in this game work differently than I expected. In most games, each hat would have certain stats associated with it, and you would need to wear that particular hat in order to take advantage of those stat boosts. In this game, however, whenever you acquire a hat, you have the ability to “transfer its power” from the hat to your squid. Your squid gets a permanent stat boost from the hat, and then you’re free to wear any hat you like. This is a weird system, but ultimately I think it’s pretty great, as you’re allowed to choose whatever fashion you like, but you’re also incentivized to acquire as many hats as possible. On top of buying hats in the store, you can find them hidden in the levels, which encourages you to explore.

As far as graphics go, it’s easy to tell the game is a mobile game from seven years ago, to be frank. The game has a cartoony aesthetic to it, and honestly the levels don’t look bad at all, but the UI and the menus all look a little bit cheap, without much care put into them. Cutscenes are very similar, being mostly told through text, which takes a bit of impact out of the story. The sound effects are pretty solid, at least; they’re sharp enough to be satisfying, and you always have a good idea of what just happened to your squid, or to your enemies. The music is okay, but pretty forgettable ultimately. The presentation is pretty mobile, and the Switch is capable of better, but it’s not enough to detract from the game in a significant way.

At $14.99, this game is a bit pricier than I might have expected, but in all honesty you get a huge amount of bang for your buck. This is effectively two games combined into one, with an extra chapter tacked on, and you get nearly 90 levels to play. Each individual level can take you several minutes for a single successful run, and you may have to try a level multiple times, or even backtrack to get more pearls to level up properly. If you enjoy the squid-launching gameplay, you’ll get your money’s worth with this package, as there are many hours’ worth of levels here.

I wasn’t expecting much out of Squids Odyssey when I started playing it, but I was pretty impressed with how solid the gameplay was. It might not be engaging enough for some, but there are elements of skill and strategy that are required right out of the gate, and while I got really irritated with how easy it was to instantly kill a squid, it was put together well enough to keep me engaged. If you’re in the market for a simpler game, especially for kids, this one is easy to understand but difficult enough to keep people playing for a while before they finish it.

Final score: 7 out of 10

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

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