Squids Odyssey Review: Underwater fun with a light RPG twist

Squids Odyssey, from French developer The Game Bakers, is a little bit Angry Birds and a little bit RPG, with just a smidge of strategy. What it's a whole lot of, however, is fun. And even though its appeal is centered around short bursts of play, there's a lot to like about this once-mobile project. Speaking of which, the game totally feels like something you'd play on a smartphone, even if you're playing the Wii U or 3DS versions. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's easy to discern the lack of overall depth in favor of playability.

You begin Squids Odyssey with a small party of squids. At first, these marine critters are all about scouring for riches and treasures under the depths of the deep, blue sea. Things quickly go awry when a funky ooze begins to turn fish evil and endangers the underwater kingdom. To be blunt, it's an unnecessary, stupid tale, but it's there in case you absolutely need some sort of plot in your light RPGs. Thankfully, if you don't dig it, you can skip the cutscenes altogether.

Don't let the pointless, overbearing plot fool you. Squids Odyssey is indeed a pleasant game — one that any Wii U or 3DS owner could get plenty of hours of entertainment from. Gameplay takes place across an overhead map. Here you must complete specific tasks such as defeat all enemies, survive a set number of turns, or reach the goal. Your objectives are always clear, and it's impossible to get lost given the small size of the maps and quick flow of the game.

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You move around the map by flinging your squids using the analog stick and A button or stylus. Given its Angry Birds-y nature, the touchscreen controls are the ideal choice. Flinging your squids into enemy fish is fun, and a few strategic elements remove the brainlessness you'd usually find in this style of game. For starters, your squids have a stamina meter that drains depending on how far you fling them. You also have to take care not to hurl your squids off the map or into spiky dangers, which you can also bump enemies into.

You've got four different kinds of squids to work with including healer, powerhouse, and long-range characters, but overall, they pretty much function the same way. Though you can certainly shoot a few faraway baddies or use an earthquake stomp to smash them up good, the bulk of what you do in Squids Odyssey is bump into enemies to cause damage. It's a fairly simple gameplay design, but that simplicity is also quite inviting. Obviously, strategy buffs won't be fond of that fact, but for those who want something more easygoing, it does the trick.

The game's RPG elements occur in the Base and Shop menus. This is where you can purchase items to use in battle, as well as snazzy hats for your squids to wear. These aren't just cosmetic novelties, though; the hats you equip give your squids permanent status boosts, and once you've equipped a hat, you keep said status increases even if you don a different hat later on, adding to the casual appeal of Squids Odyssey. You can also level each of your characters up, given you've collected plenty of pearls within the levels.

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There are a lot of stages spread out across multiple chapters in Squids Odyssey, but none of them are especially difficult or lengthy. Sometimes you'll restart a stage, but figuring out how to tackle the specific maps and the enemies contained within them is a matter of just giving it one more go. There are no overly deep mechanics to master here. What there are a lot of are collectible trinkets and unlockable hats, so if you're a completionist, you may want to revisit stages later on.

While Squids Odyssey is no graphical masterpiece, it looks fine on the 3DS. It's a colorful game with a chipper vibe to it. Characters are cutesy, and there's a surprising amount of life given to the underwater environments. Sadly, the stereoscopic features of Nintendo's handheld aren't really utilized, so there's no reason to even play with 3D setting turned on.

The Game Bakers was smart to port Squids Odyssey to the Wii U and 3DS. The touchscreen design of both platforms is perfect for this sort of game, though the portability of the 3DS makes it the better choice given the game's quick play appeal. Ultimately, strategy and RPG aficionados may find Squids Odyssey a bit too simple, but if you go into it with the mindset that this is just a fun, jolly little game, you're bound to have a genuinely good time with it.

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