As I mentioned in my last post, I beat two games yesterday. This one’s been in my backlog since 2015! My 3DS backlog isn’t very big, but it’s one I don’t tackle too often since I can only play PC games when I’m at my PC, so I save my portable games for when I have to go somewhere. Anyway, the other game I beat is:
This is a marbles RPG. You know that game, marbles? The one where you have to launch your marbles at the opponent’s marbles? That’s this game’s combat mechanics in a nutshell. You have up to four squids you can send into battle, and each has a set amount of stamina (represented by twelve bubbles around the squid). You pull back on the squid by dragging the stylus, then you let go to launch the squid (the distance it launches and the stamina used by the launch is determined by how far back you pull on it). Also, if you don’t put much force into your launch (or if your squid is slowing down due to nearing the end of its launch) and you hit an enemy, you won’t do as much damage as if you go full force right next to the enemy. Once the first of your squids runs out of stamina, the game lets you launch your next squid, and when all of your squids are out of stamina, it’s the enemy’s turn. There are also four types of squids: scouts (can dash an extra distance after an initial launch), healers (heal some of a squid’s health if they bump into each other), troopers (can shoot an enemy from a distance, which damages it and pushes it back), and stompers (can attack all enemies around it up to a certain distance; this attack also pushes the enemies away). As you play the game, you’ll collect pearls, and these can be used to purchase items, hats, level ups, or in rare cases, more squids. The way hats work is they “transfer” their “power” to the squid when you first equip it, but then you can replace it with another hat without losing the former hat’s stat increases (also, each hat can only be equipped by its compatible class of squid, so a healer can’t wear a trooper hat, and troopers can’t wear a scout hat, etc.).
It’s an interesting concept, but my main issue with the game is that there’s no way to tell exactly how much stamina a given pull will use or how far it will send your squid. You can kinda tell based on the amount of bubbles that disappear or what frame the squid has displayed when you stop pulling back, but these are never consistent measurements. For example, I pull the squid back a little bit, one bubble disappears, it shows its first pull-back frame, and it launches just a little bit since I’m trying to avoid pits and spikes, but then I put my stylus back on the same spot, it shows the same frames, but now two bubbles disappear instead of one, and releasing the stylus doesn’t launch the squid (it doesn’t even use any stamina, like I never tried to launch it in the first place). This is a common occurrence in the game, and the game demands precision in the later stages, but since the mechanics won’t let you be precise, it drags the whole experience down.
On top of this, the squids’ special ability is activated by tapping them without launching them, so if you’re, say, trying to launch a short distance to navigate around pits and spikes, but you don’t pull back far enough, you’ll end up accidentally wasting your shot or stomp for that turn. There is a different control method, though: instead of pulling back with the stylus, you can pull back on the circle pad, then push the A button to launch the squid (and push the A button without pulling the circle pad to use the ability).
Another annoying thing the game does is that some levels will force you to use a certain squid (especially for certain bosses), so if you didn’t keep that squid up to par with your current team, you’ll essentially encounter a sudden difficulty spike. However, using items doesn’t cost any stamina, so if you come across a boss that forces you to use a low-level squid, you can just buy items and spam them to kill the boss on your first turn.
The game also reuses maps quite frequently for later stages. The game will have different enemy placements and even add some spikes and walls to change things up, though.
I also encountered some glitches. First, there are certain levels where the game will frequently drop frames. Heck, there were even a couple times where the game outright crashed while trying to load a map. I looked it up, and apparently this is an iOS port, but come on: the 3DS is a console; it has the same specifications across all versions. How hard is it to optimize your game for one specific set of specs? There were also a couple times where I launched a squid, but even though it ran out of stamina, it didn’t switch to the next squid’s turn. Luckily, you can push X to skip the squid’s turn if that happens to you.
However, the part of the game that really got on my nerves is the ending: it’s a cliffhanger. The Ooze is nowhere close to being defeated, and the sub-plot that was currently playing out remains unresolved (sure, they find out Steev is still alive, but where is he? Where is Winnick? Is Winnick still alive as well? If so, will they be able to free Winnick from The Ooze?). It doesn’t even end on a boss fight: just another map filled with enemies, then the cut-scene, then a “To be continued” screen and a “Thank you for playing” message.
I will say some positive things about the game, though: the artwork is really well done and the music is surprisingly enjoyable. The title screen artwork will even change when you make it to the second chapter, and it changes again at the last chapter.
Overall, this game comes across as half-baked. The concept is interesting and there is obviously effort put into the title, but the maps aren’t designed around the mechanics, and the forced use of a single low level squid for boss fights is quite cheap (there was even a hat the devs forgot to give a name, so when you unlock it, it says “You unlocked the !”). If you’re interested in playing games that do something unique but aren’t necessarily fun, pick it up on sale, but if you’re just a normal fan of Tactics RPGs like me, give it a pass.
EDIT: Almost forgot to mention one odd detail: there’s an anaglyph 3D stage in the game despite the fact that the anaglyph 3D is unnecessary due to the 3DS’s capabilities.