Last October The Game Bakers served up a perfect-scoring RPG that took the genre by storm with its mesh of turn-based combat and touch-friendly fling mechanics. Fresh out of the oven less than a year later is Squids: Wild West (Out Now, $0.99 Release Sale), which picks up right where our stretchy heroes left off in their quest to rid the ocean of a corruptive black ooze. Don’t expect a revolution in the series, but if you were hoping for another helping of everything that made Squids so great, you won’t leave hungry.
Instead of rehashing the earlier Squids review, I’ll cut right to the chase: all the battlefield mechanics, rewards for exploration, tricky environments and thoroughly useful characters remain intact here. The Game Bakers did manage to up the ante in level design, and Squids fans will definitely appreciate the results. New enemies are often of the invincible variety once the game gets up to speed, placing heavier emphasis on traps and shifting the focus even further from level grinding to creative real-time strategy. Leveraging its Wild West theme, the sequel serves up duels and missions where you have to race to capture seahorses or beat enemy Squids to the punch. These are exquisitely designed and bring out the game’s full potential as a logic puzzler, providing nice breaks from the typical combat scenarios.
And then there are a few areas where Wild West falters just a bit. I went in hoping for new character classes to blow gameplay variety wide open, but story recruits in the sequel hew to the same four archetypes players already know well from the first. Nor are the seahorses much of a game changer, as they’re handled very similar to the Squids once they’re claimed as battle steeds — though a mounted seahorse does have the ability to knock over shelled enemies and make them vulnerable to regular attacks. Speaking of enemies, quite a few are recycled from the previous title, a condition that thankfully becomes less noticeable as the game swings into full gear.
The in medias res plot makes some attempt to bring new players up to speed, but you’ll definitely want to finish the first before picking this one up. Wild West‘s storyline sticks mostly to slapstick for better or worse and lacks some of the emotional resonance that the first game had early on; in that sense Wild West misses its chance to be the Empire Strikes Back of iOS RPGs.
Wild West continues the series tradition of impeccable presentation. Battlefields can be rich and lively or dark and gloomy but they’re gorgeous either way, and the character sprites are still some of the most well-animated among iOS RPGs. Romain Gauthier once again triumphs on the audio side, working some Western motifs into the traditional Squids themes without losing any of their organic charm. The tracks I enjoyed most, however, are some eerie additions for dark levels that give the new soundtrack a bit of a wider range than the previous one — let’s hope for another OST to go with everyone’s copy of the original Squids soundtrack!
iFanzine Verdict: If you loved the first Squids and want more content of that caliber, you should go right out and download Squids: Wild West — it’s as simple as that. And if you haven’t played the first, you should probably go do that now. The only thing weighing down the sequel is a sense of deja vu that’ll make you hope the series can outgrow its shell the next time around.