“It’s like [Popular Game X] on [Addictive Narcotic Y]!” App Store blurbs are often misleading, but the insistence of game site The Escapist that Squids is “the adorable spawn of Angry Birds and Final Fantasy Tactics” isn’t too far from the truth.
This curious blend of tentacles and tactics is a world away from the dice rolling, stat-heavy approach of hardcore strategy games, and it benefits from a fresh perspective. Add delightful cartoon graphics and a surprisingly compelling storyline to the mix and you might just find yourself suckered in.
You control a team of up to four cel-shaded cephalopods, and your job is to traverse a variety of colourful underwater environments, collecting pearls and giving nasty, bullying crabs a hefty slap.
To move, you’ll need to pull your chosen squid’s tentacles taut and release to propel them through the water. Each has a given move limit, represented by a ring of bubbles, and you’ll need to position your squid-squad carefully so as not to leave any of them exposed.
After a few introductory stages, your default team comprises a shooter, trooper, scout and healer. The scout can move faster and further, allowing you to scope out enemy positions before retreating to safety and moving in with the trooper with his powerful short-range stomp attack, and the shooter’s ranged fire. The healer, meanwhile, can replenish any lost health by bumping into injured party members.
As with most iOS games, there are three stars to collect on each level, here representing speed (the number of turns you took to complete the stage), survival (whether or not you let any of your tentacled team die) and secret (a hidden star, usually tucked away behind spiked plants or past strong currents).
It’s simply brimming with personality. Few iOS games bother with a proper story, simply giving you a brief introduction and letting you get on with it. Squids takes the time to provide context for your actions without going overboard with lengthy dialogue exchanges.
It looks and sounds great, too -- the aquatic environments are bright and detailed and the characters well-drawn and animated. Exploration is rewarded with hidden helmets that can boost abilities -- your scout can sport a beer hat, while your trooper looks resplendent in a pink sieve.
Those who are struggling to marshal their tentacle troops efficiently can spend money on additional pearls to level up or buy new equipment -- like a kraken which weakens all enemies on a single stage -- but most won’t have to spend more than the initial 69p outlay. And with over 20 levels for the price of a bag of Randoms, you’d be a sucker to miss out.
Squids costs 69p on the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPod touch.