Thinking of the Wild West often conjures images of gun-slinging cowboys, scorching deserts, and the occasional heartwarming tale of good triumphing over evil even in a lonely expanse of wilderness. Squids Wild West has all of those elements, except the protagonists are squids, and the West is underwater. Yep, it’s pretty fanciful.
Squids Wild West is the sequel to Squids, which came out last year to our mixed reception. The story picks up right where the first entry left off, introducing an entertaining cast of characters that have already bonded from treasure hunting and discovering a sinister foe that they continue to pursue.
Caution: Calamari Crossing.
The concept and execution of Squids is full of frivolity, from the banter between the quirky characters to their hats, which include pasta strainers and the iconic Skyrim helmet. That’s why Squids Wild West’s story took us by surprise with its attempts at being emotionally compelling and serious. A serious plot isn’t unwelcome in a humorous title, but Squids’ whole concept borders on ridiculous, so the result is a mixed bag, even if it is well executed.
As in the first Squids game, gameplay takes place in turns, and combat and movement work by pulling the squid’s tentacles and launching it off towards enemies and the various bonuses scattered around the levels. While we had concerns with how this unique gameplay worked in the first entry, Wild West improves on the physics without making any significant changes to the style. The levels also offer some variety, breaking up combat with racing to a checkpoint or puzzling through the multifaceted environments–though those environments are recycled more often than we liked. Additionally, the difficulty seems uneven at times–both in terms of being unexpectedly hard and surprisingly easy for different levels.
It’s turtles (and squids) all the way down.
The cast from the first game get some new buddies in the West, and you can choose which four to bring on each mission, though this choice comes at the cost of not always having an ideal team for the plot to make sense. You can also manage your team by leveling them up and adorning them with hats. Inventory management consists solely of buying these hats and transferring their power to characters, which we found clever yet unimpressive. There’s also some items one-time use items that we never found particularly necessary–but if you do, you have the option of paying real money for more.
All together, Squids Wild West is a well polished game with humor at its core, juxtaposed with a serious plot full of betrayal and sacrifice. We liked both of these elements, but their combination struck us as strange; after all, we’re talking about teary-eyed squids wearing jester hats or vampire fangs in an underwater version of the Wild West. Still, it improves on the first entry, and the ending hints at a sequel in no subtle way, so here’s hoping that they can shake things up and keep improving this charming series.