The iPhone has provided a new frontier of gaming, in addition to communication, with several companies large and small putting gaming apps on Apple’s cellphone operating system. Among the role-playing games for the iPhone is Squids Wild West, which fuses elements from several genres into an enjoyable experience.
In the game menus, the player assembles a party of four squids of different classes, including scout, which can sprint a little more distance when moving as the result of the player pulling a squid backwards and releasing them, the dash operated by touching the moving squid; shooter, which can shoot bullets at enemies a fixed number of times; trooper, which can jump and release a damaging aura upon nearby enemies; and healer, which can recover other squids by bouncing into them, or having other squids bounce into the healer.
In each mission, squids damage the enemy by bouncing into them, with the player’s squids and the enemy have HP that means death when fully depleted. The player’s squid team can occasionally recover HP by dashing across jars with keys in them, which contain random items, some of which can be useful, for instance, providing a spike shell that deflects enemies when the squid’s turn ends. Defeating enemies provides a number of pearls that serve as currency, allowing the player to purchase items and hats outside battle, the latter allowing for additional stat increases in addition to those acquired upon leveling by again using pearls.
Most battles typically have the goal of killing every enemy, although some have the goal of capturing a fleeing seahorse (which squids can mount for greater distance coverage and damage of enemies), reaching a certain indicated point, and the like. The gameplay helps the game far more than hurts, with some quirks such as an item that doubles pearl acquisition, not to mention the ability to replay battles to acquire all of each one’s three stars, one for all squids surviving, one for finding a secret star, and the last for winning the battle within a certain number of turns. There are some occasional annoying battles with pits that mean instant death for squids, as well as the occasional glitch that freezes the battle and necessitates the player to restart or return to the menus (the player can only retain acquired pearls from a partially-completed battle if all their squids die), but the gameplay is generally entertaining.
The game’s menus and controls are generally solid, with a linear structure keeping the player always moving in the right direction, easy shopping, and so forth, although keeping track of playing time requires the player to rely upon the iPhone’s stopwatch feature. Otherwise, interaction doesn’t leave too much room for improvement.
The story isn’t too much to write home about, although there are occasional scenes that provide backstory to a few of the squids, and in some instances enemies, although development of the squids isn’t universal, and this particular aspect could in the end have used the most improvement.
The music is also one of the weakest parts of the games, with occasional western-themed music that isn’t terribly memorable, although the squid voices at times are decent.
The visuals are probably the strongest suit of the game, with nice, well-animated squid and enemy sprites, although there are occasional palette-swapped foes.
Finally, as is the case with most cellphone RPGs, the game is fairly short, taking as little as ten hours to finish, although extras such as acquiring every mission’s stars, not to mention an ultra-challenging Pro Mode the player can trigger on and off, add plenty replayability. In the end, Squids Wild West is a fairly solid cellphone RPG that hits many of the right notes, particularly with respect to its gameplay and visuals, although it also leaves some room for improvement, given its glitchy nature at times and unmemorable story and music. However, it’s definitely worth the $2 necessary to download.
+Solid tactical gameplay fusing elements from various genres.
-Can be glitchy at times.
-Some annoying levels.
-Soundtrack isn’t memorable
The Bottom Line:
Enjoyable cellphone RPG.
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Easy to Medium
Playing Time: 10-30 Hours