Squids Odyssey Review
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On 07/07/2014 at 12:00 PM by Travis Hawks
Who knew that bugs in the calamari was a bad thing?
Wait for a patch, then try this fresh and crazy combination of game types.
I hated Squids Odyssey. It was too hard, it was just a stupid twist on Angry Birds, and it was going to throw countless levels at me before I could say I had finished it. Then, I realized I was doing everything completely wrong. Once I understood that Squids Odyssey really is a tactical, physics based RPG sort of thing, I became enchanted. The level layout, the character design, and the delightful music wriggled their way into my heart and made me fall pretty hard for Squids Odyssey. Unfortunately, the redemption only lasted until I hit more and more game-crashing bugs and my enjoyment was dragged back down to a comfy middle ground.
My first impressions of Squids Odyssey were debatably my own fault since the promotional materials declare it to be a “tactical RPG,” but I instantly forgot about all that when I first started playing. There is nothing to really indicate the game’s tactical or RPG nature when you begin. The opening levels and on-screen tutorials show you how to pull back on your squids and zip them around the screen to attack ooze-coated sea meanies, but there is little talk of strategy and I don’t recall any discussion of leveling up your characters. Once you realize that you need to develop a plan of attack for each level and that you must diddle around in the “base” and “shop” menus to upgrade and adjust your squid squad constantly, then the strategic nature of Squids Odyssey really becomes apparent.
You’re faced with a series of levels where your squid party tries to hunt down the mastermind behind a city-destroying black ooze. It follows a linear progression with a few cruel difficulty spikes along the way, but generally your skills and character stats can be perfectly tuned to tackle each stage without too much frustration. Each turn has you pulling back on a character (via circle pad or touch screen) and flinging them into position or slamming them into enemies to perform attacks. The different classes of shooter, trooper, scout, and healer allow you to devise an ideal team and move its four members around to defeat the enemy troops or to traverse a tricky series of trap-laden pathways.
I eventually ditched the healer class from my team and doubled up on shooters and scouts to get more attacks in. Shooters have one distance-based attack they can use each turn, troopers get a special area of effect attack, and scouts can move the most and farthest. Each level and each turn forces you to come up with a plan to use the environment’s sheer drops, spiky sea urchins, and helpful items along with your team’s skills. Even though the strategy doesn’t involve picking attacks from menus or moving characters through a grid, once you get the hang of the slingshot mechanics, they are a nice skill-based mechanic in a genre that normally avoids anything of the sort.
Also different from the way most strategy RPGs operate is the way you improve and level up characters. Squids Odyssey has a system that is a little goofy, but it works well enough. You unlock different hats as you progress, and each hat is for a specific class. Once you buy a hat, it becomes available to all characters you have in that class. Unlike what you might expect, though, you don’t have to thoughtfully decide which hat each character will wear, but instead you just push the appropriate buttons and that hat’s stat boosts are instilled into that character permanently. Since you don’t even have to pick which character gets to use each hat, but can imbue each character with each hat’s stats, there isn’t much of a cost-benefit thought process to go through. You just use every hat on everyone, which essentially turns into a leveling-up process that requires a lot of repetitive button presses. It’s still satisfying to go and see those hats boost your characters’ stats, and you can generally quickly tell that you’ve made a big difference in their performance too.
You can also level up by spending some of the pearls you earn as you play. This leveling-up method does require you to do some planning since levels you buy only apply to a single character and the pearls you spend could also be used on revive items, weapons, and other tools. These are the sort of thought processes I expect from an RPG, and it’s a nice and necessary way to further tweak the slate of available squids.
You would think that a group of cartoon squids would all end up looking pretty much identical, but the character art in Squids Odyssey is exceptional. Each one has a unique look and exudes the feeling of a detailed cartoon or children’s book, at least in the cut scenes. Those details get a bit fuzzy when you’re looking at the in-game models, but they still preserve their personality. The levels themselves are typically a little bland until you pan around to the outskirts and see some interesting trimmings that are, unfortunately, easy to completely miss. It won’t be possible to ignore the game’s soundtrack, though. It is a jaunty series of tunes that got stuck in my head often, which I didn’t mind at all.
Each time I’d come back to Squids Odyssey and get into that soundtrack, I was always amazed at how much I loved every moment. That is, until, the bugs started cropping up. There was apparently some delay in getting Squids Odyssey through the approval process on the 3DS, and I can only assume that these sorts of bugs were the reason. Typically, the bugs would strike right in the middle of a tense fight or at the end of an arduous journey; the game would freeze up and dump me back to the home menu. Sometimes it would just freeze and I would have to exit on my own. There were also times where a character stopped being able to move or take damage, but I could still skip their turn and continue playing. Every time these glitches happened, I was disheartened, and they seemed to strike more often the farther I got into the game. In fact, I was never able to complete a level titled “Game Over” after glitching out of it probably five times in a row.
Hopefully The Game Bakers will get a patch released to fix these sorts of errors, because it’s almost tragic. Game-ending glitches normally only happen to me in games I don’t want to be playing anyway, but not so with Squids Odyssey. Since I had really started enjoying this unusual combination of concepts, each crash was a real disappointment. Squids Odyssey is a creative game with a lot of personality that everyone should try, but until there’s a patch, you might want to hold off.