Hands-On Preview: Squids

Based in France but digitally distributed across the globe, the crack team of videogame designers known as The Game Bakers is about to make a big splash on iOS. Their uber-creative Action RPG, Squids, releases next Thursday, October 13. We’re holding our review until then, but here’s the lowdown on its premise and central game mechanics so you know basically what to expect as release day approaches.

Naturally, Squids gives the player command over a cast of anthropomorphic mollusks. The adventure begins demurely enough, with the expert lockpick Steev venturing into a sunken ruin in search of valuable pearls. Together with his healer pal, Vahine, and the beardly sage, Winnick, he’s quite lucky that the venture puts a roof over his head at the very moment a mass of black ooze begins raining upon the sea floor. This is a particularly bad event for sea creatures, because the ooze infects and turns wild anything it touches. Being old enough to remember the last time this happened, Winnick commands Steev and Vahine to go out and gather others of their kind who are fit to combat the coming menace.

As you might guess from the above paragraph, there’s lots of battling in Squids. Battle and exploration occur seamlessly — or rather, it could be said that exploration is an important part of battling. The player moves his or her squids in a turn order determined between levels. Each turn gives a squid a certain number of stamina points to use on movement and melee attacks, accomplished by pulling back on the squid’s tentacles and releasing in a fling motion that’s sure to be familiar to every iDevice owner by now. The degree to which the player pulls back determines how much stamina is used in one move, and several moves can be completed in one turn. The player may end a turn early if a desired sea shell yields its items or a target vanquished before stamina points run out, and each character has his or her own special abilities that rely on tap controls in most cases. During battle, there’s nary a menu to be seen!

All that squid flinging isn’t just an homage to this platform’s renowned physics puzzlers — physics actually play a central role in the game’s combat system, and the result is quite unlike anything we’ve seen yet on iOS. The player can knock hardened crustacean foes off bridges to finish them quickly, but watch out that enemies don’t do the same to your squids! To assist in this respect, the player can guide his or her heroes to anchors, which they then latch onto while awaiting their next turn. Damage inflicted by melee attacks is directly proportional to the momentum the player character or enemy can muster for a fling, and bonus damage is added when characters are knocked into hazards like sea urchins. There’s some stat management on tap to satisfy RPG enthusiasts of the number-crunching variety, but this element is light enough that it’s unlikely to deter more casual players.

Check back with iFanzine for a day-one review when Squids releases on October 13! In the meantime, you can whet your beak (yes, squids have beaks!) with plenty more info at the Game Bakers’ site. Also be sure to check out their Facebook page and Twitter feed for the latest news!