iPad Game Review: Squids Wild West (Universal) Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Squids Wild West is a much improved follow-up to the original Squids for iOS. A clever mash-up of a traditional RPG, physics puzzler, and turn-based strategy, Squids Wild West hits the mark in almost every way.
When the original Squids was released, I bought it instantly based on the game description. Unfortunately, while the gameplay was sound, somebody, somewhere convinced these coders that to really make money on the App Store you need to hold gamers upside-down and shake them until all of their money falls out of their pants. Well, at least that's how it felt. It was a fantastic game that had been maimed by an unfortunate business model. It's easy to understand why developers occasionally get this wrong, however. Between the race to the bottom (.99$) and the ease with which a good game can slip into obscurity, it's no wonder coders no longer feel that they can simply write a game, put it in the App Store, and expect to make money. Unfortunately, in the case of the original Squids, that strategy probably would have worked. Enter: Squids Wild West, which seems to fix everything that was wrong with the first iteration without breaking anything in the process. Heck, they've even managed to come up with a few enhancements.
Squids Wild West is a clever combination of traditional RPG, physics puzzler, and turn-based strategy; and it all works extremely well. The game is broken-up into a series of scripted missions/encounters in which you are tasked with vanquishing your aquatic foes. Much like Spongebob Squarepants, if you concentrate too much on the fact that all of this is supposed to take place underwater, you'll have trouble suspending your disbelief, so just go with it. Each of your squids has a different set of strengths, weaknesses, and abilities (like a traditional RPG). Accessing these abilities is dead simple. Healers can heal simply by crashing into an injured squid, opponents within range of special and ranged attacks are immediately flagged as such, and picking-up stars, power-ups, and treasure is accomplished automatically, on impact. Ah, yes; the impact. This brings us to the game's core mechanic, which is reminiscent of Angry Birds et.al. To move your squids and to attack with them, you stretch them in the opposite direction you want them flung, and then release. The rock-solid physics engine makes Squids feel a bit like billiards as you try for clever bank shots and chain reactions. Squids Wild West supports Game Center Leaderboards and Achievements, and also supports Cloud Save for all of you multi-device owners.
The graphics in Squids Wild West are very good. They're colorful, the animation is smooth, and the hand-drawn backgrounds add a lot of personality. The game looked great on my iPhone 4S, but as with most games that aren't optimized for the new iPad, it looked decidedly less crisp when played on that device.
The music of Squids Wild West is particularly enjoyable, although the sound effects are also top notch. Sound is one area where cut corners are common in iOS games. Fortunately, this is not the case here. Don't be too hasty to turn the sound down, and maybe even reach for those headphones...
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
While there are still IAPs in this version of Squids, they are far, far less intrusive. In fact, as I played, I never felt that I was being nagged or that they were necessary to be successful (in fact, most IAPs are purely cosmetic). Levels can be repeated to farm pearls and there doesn't seem to be any chokepoints to drive you to the in-game store.
Squids Wild West is a delightful blending of several genres. The result is a game that seems to be greater than the sum of its parts. Highly recommended.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Very good, but could use a retina update for the new iPad. Sound: - 5 - Excellent sound effects and music. Controls: - 5 - The "flinging" aspect of the game works perfectly, and great care has been taken to keep the interface intuitive, clean, and uncluttered. Gameplay: - 5 - I enjoyed everything about this game. Overall: - 4.75 - Inventive and fluid gameplay, excellent graphics and good music.
Playing Hints and Tips:
There is no tutorial for a reason; just start playing and everything will be clear in moments. After the first mission, however, take some time to familiarize yourself with your team, and make substitutions as necessary. You should always have at least one healer; everything else is negotiable. Before you spend any pearls on leveling up or equipment, purchase the pearlfish, which doubles pearl drops throughout the game.