Squid: Retro Devolved

Review of Squid on XBLIG: Try
Who says two is better than one? Squid simplifies the dual stick shooter!

Dual stick shooters are plentiful on Xbox Live Indie Games.  They are simple games to create (well, simpler) and very popular.  A popular genre also means a crowded genre, and it can be difficult to stand out if you don’t have a new twist to the established formula.  Squid’s twist is than instead of using two thumb sticks in a dual stick shooter, it uses one.

Described as the “pacifist’s nightmare” Squid gives the player control of a weaponless cargo ship.  To survive, the player must lead the heat-seeking (is it right to say “heat” seeking in space? ) missiles back into the enemy ships.  The cargo ship doesn’t have a gun, but that doesn’t mean it’s totally defenseless.  Two countermeasures are available; a temporary shield and a fake ship beacon that will lure in missiles.  The shield is helpful to get out of tight spots, but the beacon on can be a double edge sword.  While the beacon is attracting the missiles there are no missiles to lead into enemy ships.

Gameplay is fast and fluid.  The cargo ship can outrun other ships and missile with ease, though I found it took some practice before I could control the ship and not fly right into a missile because I moved too far.   Instead of lives the ship can stand a number of hits, and these hits can be replenished by power ups. The game offers a local multiplayer mode in addition to single player.

The first time I played Squid I was completely sucked in.  The simplicity of the controls are balanced against the chaos on screen.  The graphics are good, if typical of the genre.  The music however, is a unique bebop jazz number that works much better than distorted guitars or heavy techno I’ve come to expect.

The problem is this feeling of love quickly wears off.  Perhaps too simple, I found myself ready to move to another game after only a few minutes.  There is also a feeling after a long run (my top score is just over 80,000) that starting over is a setback.  I am not one who is motivated by leaderboards, but lacking a peer to peer leaderboard I didn’t feel much point in playing the game multiple times.

Squid is a Try.  The game is well produced and polished: you can feel the quality.  The games falls down though in its short length and replay value.  Squid is like a rich New York style cheesecake.  At first, it’s soooo damn good, but after a few bytes you’re kinda done with cheesecake.

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