To really dive into the underwater world of Squids Wild West and see how it truly presents itself as a sequel, you have to do just a little bit of backtracking to The Game Baker’s earlier title, Squids. In my earlier article I got to interview the creative director of the series, Emeric Thoa, and I briefly mentioned my own experiences as a beta tester, but now that I have the finished product on my iPod, I’m happy to say that my initial reaction has been improved.
Like the first title, the gameplay is a mixture between physics flinging games and turn based RPG combat. Players slide their fingers along the touch screen to stretch their little squids and release them to complete common level objectives such as wiping out all enemies, or reaching a certain location. Like many iOS titles, Squids Wild West boasts a three star system where players are tasked with finding a hidden star in each level, beating the level without any squids dying, and completing the level in a specific number of turns.
There are four classes to the game. Scouts can dash around levels, Healers can restore health to their allies, Shooters can…well that one is pretty self explanatory, and Troopers can create a shockwave to deal damage to opponents. Using the in-game currency, pearls, players can level up their squids or purchase a variety of hats that will add permanent stat upgrades to your characters. With the four classes, and a variety of characters, Wild West opens ample possibilities for players to build a party of four squids to their personal preferences
Squids Wild West does almost everything that a sequel needs to do. The story continues on from the cliffhanger ending of the first game, where now our old friends Steev, Vahine, Sammo, and the others travel west to Clint’s hometown of Seawood. On top of keeping track of all our old friends, Squids Wild West introduces a colorful variety of new characters such as the spunky candy cane shooter, Calamary Jane, the noble chieftain scout, Ronimo and the mining powerhouse trooper…Brad.
Aside from these new characters, there are a lot of new mechanics implemented into the levels such as exploding lobsters, cannon fish, a slew of new ooze infested enemies to combat, mind controlled medusa that must be carefully guided around the levels, and most notably, a fair selection of seahorses to aid the characters in battle. Keeping in Squids fashion, almost all of these mechanics can hurt the player as much as they can help, so it’s important to always be careful where you position your party in these battles.
Any real criticism that would go into the game is that one could argue that new mechanics aside, the game doesn’t improve too drastically from the initial gameplay formula. The graphics are virtually identical (though this may not be a negative criticism since the design of the game is gorgeous). Squids are still launched through the touch screen mechanics of stretching and releasing into enemies or bottles scattered around the level to provide bonuses such as protective shell armor, stamina restoring drinks or sushi and ink clouds to dodge enemy attacks.
As mentioned before, the level design is breathtaking, with the entire world made of recognizable items assembled in fun and interesting ways to build the environments. The fun calypso style soundtrack found in the first game keeps its rhythm by creating new tunes with a western feel to them. While all characters may fall into the same four classes, the unique stat distribution and overall skills of each character creates a nice balance that really allows the player to build a team based on their own specifications. While Clint may have more stamina to get around the levels, the new shooter Cleef has a bit more defense and the ability to get in two ranged shots per turn.
The final thing that should be noted is that just like the first game, Squids Wild West provides a nice mix of fun gameplay and engaging story. From the arrival in Seawood to the final confrontation, the story gives players an enjoyable ride.
+Cute, quirky characters
+Fun, challenging gameplay
+Hats, oh so many hats
+Plenty of content, currently over 50 levels with more to come
-No new Healer characters
-Peculiar difficulty curve
-That feeling when you restart a level for the eighth time trying to get the Survival Star
The Ugly…er, Verdict
Fun the play, engaging to complete, a truly fun game for both newcomers and Squids fans alike. Definitely worth a purchase.
Squids Wild West was released on June 27th, 2012 for iOS devices.