Platform: 3DS, also on Wii U (eShop, £9.99)
Developer: The Game Bakers
"Every once in a while, a mobile game comes along that delivers quality and value consistent with a full-price handheld console release. A game that offers an experience that wouldn't feel out of place on the DS with a premium price tag... but costs next to nothing. SQUIDS is one of those games." - Mobot iOS review, 2011
Deja vu much? This will make for the third time I've reviewed SQUIDS in as many years, and the fact that I still enjoy the experience speaks volumes about the quality and enjoyment factor of this crazy genre hybrid. Whether on iOS, Android or now Wii U, the squishy underwater lovechild of Fire Emblem and Angry Birds still manages to blend strategy with artillery and a huge dose of silly referential humour.
And now it's on 3DS, a big fat fully content-and-feature-complete edition with an IAP-free economy that also grants you a free copy of the Wii U version here in Europe (details here). As such, this review is going to be short and sweet, since we already covered the original Wii U eShop release in May. Instead of rehashing old ground, we'll focus on what makes this new version different, better and wetter than its predecessors.
Gameplay remains pleasingly unchanged. Throughout dozens upon dozens of missions, we'll lead a squad of loveable squid soldiers through dangerous maps, fighting against hordes of undersea foes by using cunning tactics, positioning and unique class skills. However, movement and attacks all come down to using each squid's stretchy body like a catapult, stretching them out and letting fly. Hitting an enemy damages them, knocks them into hazards or even clean off of bottomless pits, making for a game that's both acccessible yet deceptively deep where it wants to be. Pool sharks will be in their elements as trick shots become mandatory for later levels.
Once more for the road: please read the Wii U review. Excellent. Now we can discuss what makes this new 3DS version unique.
As opposed to the action taking place on a single screen, it's now split between two, with the bottom screen reserved exclusively for stylus controls that don't feel anywhere near as responsive as the capacitive smartphone/tablet touchscreen, or allow for the finer movements provided by the Wii U GamePad's larger play area. Thankfully the circle pad and face button alternative is pitch-perfect, granting fine granular control that often feels more precise as a result.
There's no denying it: SQUIDS Odyssey's 3DS version is graphically the weakest of the trio. Lacking the higher resolutions of an HDTV or even a medium-spec smartphone, Nintendo's 400×240 top screen can only manage to deliver a noticeably jaggier and fuzzier version of the still-colourful experience. After all, there are simply less pixels to work with this time around.
It's certainly not the prettiest SQUIDS has ever looked, but in a neat twist, this is also one of the few games that I'd strongly recommend playing with stereoscopic 3D enabled. Remember, that 400 x 200 is per eye, and The Game Bakers have done a fantastic job of distinguishing between background, characters and foreground, absolutely loading each scene with animated detail that makes the device resemble look like a tiny portable fishtank you're peering into.
Otherwise this is exactly the same as the Wii U version, for better and worse. The economy has been retooled around replaying levels for extra currency, not shelling out for IAPs, though the levelling and inventory system is still cumbersome and time consuming. An opportunity for an overhaul was sorely squandered. Some of the levels feel a little too large or overly padded with empty space, though are still colourful, thematic and visually unique. It's a bit tough in parts, but catchy music and irrepressible personality seal the deal -- alongside a free online strategy guide.
But can it possibly be worth buying over the two original mobile games... that cost less than £1.50 apiece?
We quibbled over the answer last time, but now it's much more clear-cut. Yes. Not only does the 3DS' portable form factor perfectly suit SQUIDS' compartmentalised missions and bite-sized 'have a quick blast' appeal, but a purchase also includes the Wii U version into the bargain. The lack of save file transfers is galling, but the value is now, if you'll pardon the expression, watertight.
- Enjoyable gameplay blends artillery combat and strategy
- Plenty of levels, stiff challenge
- Adorable personality; impressive use of stereoscopic 3D
- Cumbersome manual levelling and equipment
- Some levels feel padded, overly large or tough
- Graphically the weakest version thus far in 2D
The Short Version: SQUIDS Odyssey's blend of turn-based strategy, addictive RPG and zany artillery action feels right at home on the 3DS; trading off crisper graphics for great stereoscopic 3D effects, tight physical controls and moreish bite-sized appeal.
And you'll get the Wii U version too, so long as both systems are registered to your Nintendo Network ID.