Turn-based strategy games tend to be a bit intimidating, with their grids and deep stat systems, and they’re inevitably themed with JRPG tropes or tired old war settings. The Game Bakers’ Squids, originally an iOS title but now ported to PC, has none of those things, and fills the void with marine life and slingshot physics.
You control a band of merry cephalopods, launching them across sea-filled maps to gather pearls, defeat baddies and generally accomplish things. This isn’t straight Angry Birds, though; pulling them to send ‘em flying uses action points you could spend to attack or move again later, so there are a lot of decisions to make. You also control which of the little ones to use in your party, and you can choose from ones suited for movement, defense or what-have-you.
Meeting the basic requirements of the game’s 20 or so levels isn’t difficult, which works with the developers’ casual ambitions. To make things more interesting, though, they adopted the now-standard three-star rating for levels. How do you earn those second and third stars? By taking no damage and finding a secret star in the level, respectively. These are important as a game makes the transition from iOS, where several bite-sized gameplay sessions are all people expect, to PC, where longer play needs to be viable. There aren’t any difficulty levels or anything, but the gameplay essentially scales itself based on your own ambitions.
The controls managed to do just fine in the transition from touch to mouse. It’s still clearly conceived as a mobile game, and it’s great there, but there’s nothing wrong with the PC port at all. There’s no issue with resolution, as the game can pump out that 1900×1200 if you want it, and everything’s still slingshot-controlled. The “tap again” functions are a bit strange to execute with precision, and when that’s what stands between you and the coolest move you can make, it hurts a bit.
You can buy new equipment for your squids in the shop, and trying out different combinations can be interesting, but generally Squids doesn’t overstay its welcome. For the bit it’s a part of your life, though, it manages to pack in a heck of a lot of charm and a slick visual style. For four bucks from the Game Bakers site, it’s worth checking out.