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Squids Wild West

SQUIDSWildWest_Art

Everyone loves squids! No, wait. The other thing. Everyone hates squids! Not to worry, French developer The Game Bakers have made a tactical role-playing game dedicated to having fun with slimy under sea animals without actually touching them. Squids Wild West is the sequel to the hit iOS app, Squids, and carries over forty new missions across five chapters. Besides the desert backdrop and floating tumbleweeds, the game offers a very similar experience to the original. Players will select a team of squids to swagger into dangerous undersea territories and clean house. Every level roughly has this same concept, but when killing critters is this satisfying, you won’t mind the repetition.

Don’t be fooled by the genre; there’s very little role-playing involved. The story plays out through short, text-based cutscenes that try to give some kind of context as to why you are fighting. The narrative is far from enthralling but characters are full of funny quips and modern day references that are sure to make the biggest stiffs smile. The comedy helps keep interest high when a little too much time is devoted to explaining the protagonist’s back stories. Every cutscene is worth watching at least once, especially the surprisingly touching ending, and thankfully they’re all skippable.

The aquatic meat of the experience is in the gameplay. A top-down view gives you the perfect perspective to decide which baddies to kill and in what order. You choose a team of four squids (out of twelve available) to accompany you into most levels, and even though there are no split paths or story changing decisions, Wild West is full of the stuff that makes RPGs addicting. There are four classes of cephalopods: Trooper, Healer, Scout, and Shooter. The Trooper can send enemies flying with a Stomp attack, Scouts can travel fast and far, Healers can replenish health, and if you can’t figure out what the Shooter does, how did you even load up the app? You can also pull back on your squid’s elastic tentacles, like a sling shot, and thrust them into a speedy headbutt that can deal quite a bit of damage; this is also how you zip around the map quickly.

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Four squids waiting to fight.

The combat is turn-based, allowing you to move or attack a certain number of times before the A.I. can retaliate. Every dead, evil sea creature drops pearls that can be used as currency to upgrade your gear, squids, or clothing. Purchasing these advantages can improve stats, allowing stronger attacks, faster movement, more health, etc. Each item retains the same amount of clever references and comedy as the cutscenes, including a helmet that will make fans of a certain fantasy RPG go nuts. Levels are also full of treasure chests and Easter eggs that can help make victory a reality. Repeating levels to find every challenging secret is meticulously fun and rewards the extra effort with a leg up that make later levels easier.

Unfortunately, all the heath boosting and level grinding can’t help you with the game’s biggest enemy: the cliff. Almost every level features large chasms where, if found too close to the edge, enemies can shove your squids over the side, causing an instant death. This can be used to your advantage as well, knocking foes into the infinite abyss, but it is a little unsettling to put so much work into upgrading every aspect of your squid, only to see him/her die so easily. When your only form of movement wouldn’t exactly be described as precise, you might find yourself throwing your squids off the edge without any help from your adversary. It’s supposed to make levels more difficult, but often seems a little senseless rather than challenging.

Thankfully, a few deaths will always prompt an options screen asking if you would like to lower the difficulty. Levels never get so hard as to be frustrating and even if you’re stuck, there’s always loot to find in past levels that will help you move forward. Pretty standard practice for an RPG. If you want to speed up the process, the game offers the ability to purchase upgrades with real money. This is not required and isn’t selling any items you can’t secure with time and patience. It’s just an option for all you fast paced ballers out there.

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The dreaded cliff.

Small additions like the Sea Horses (help you get around faster) and the Explosive Medusa (touch-controlled bomb) help break up the gameplay, but every level will instill a feeling of déjà vu. Kill enemies, collect loot, rinse and repeat. This sounds like a bad thing, but it actually helps make the game satisfying when you only have a short while to play. Most missions are simple enough they can be completed in a few minutes, lending themselves well to playing while commuting, waiting for a bus, or pretending you’re working, all while contributing to the overall RPG elements of the experience. No matter how much time you have, every play session feels relevant.

Wild West has all the features of a triple A iOS title: Game Center, iCloud support, and the ability to share your accomplishments with Facebook or Twitter (if that tickles your fancy). It isn’t perfect, but still better than 90% of anything else on the platform. The developers are offering 50% percent off if bought at launch (June 27th, 2012) allowing everyone to pick up this title for $0.99. In short, it’s worth it. The game also lists an extra chapter with the words “coming soon” below it, implying more content is on the way. Whether you need a distraction inside or outside the house, do yourself a favor and buy Squids Wild West.

The Good

Levels are quick and fun | Addicting RPG elements | Clever cutscenes

The Bad

Too many cliffs

4/5

Little David Galanter grew up in Orange County, CA loving videogames and anything else that repelled girls. After getting his Bachelor's Degree in Theatre Arts, David decided to start contributing his soft silky words to the world via online media. He currently owns a website with a weekly podcast (www.drgman.com) and is a reviewer for Default Prime!
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