Episodic gaming had such great promise a few years back. We had Half Life 2 episodes one or two, the first couple Penny Arcade games, and quite a few more. But along with Half Life 2 Episode 3, it all sort of dried up. So here's a cool thing—the relatively quick development cycles on iOS seem to have resurrected episodic gaming exactly as it always should have been, and none of us have so much as blinked an eye. Case in point: Squids Wild West [$1.99].

There have been any number of iOS games that have already had a few sequels and carried a series onward, but Squids has something a little special going on. The story of Steev, Vahine, Winnick and all their undersea friends is a compelling one, one that's being told in satisfying pieces. Two games in less than a year may not be enough to prove the formula, but I'd be surprised if The Game Bakers couldn't pull it off with all the fun of Squids Wild West to work with, never mind its charming cast of characters.

If you've played the original, you already know what to expect: slinging sea creatures toward their goopy corrupted enemies, collecting pearls, and unlocking hats, mostly. Wild West has all the things that made Squids great, but bigger and better than ever. Keen, right? If you haven't played the original, know that it comes highly recommended—but you don't need to play it to enjoy this sequel.

The story picks up right after Squids, and the backstory is laid out for new players with some early exposition. That means big spoilers, by the way, so if you want to go into Squids fresh you really shouldn't start into Wild West until you're done. The mechanics are also reintroduced. Mostly this means pulling back on squids tentacles and launching them toward any number of evil, corrupted things, treasure chests, or handy dandy switches.

Honestly, slingshotting squids around isn't the most compelling mechanic, but it works. Squids Wild West is kinectic, a little pinball-like, and it takes a lot of skill to play it well. Aim is paramount, but so is planning: knowing how many times you'll be able to fire off a squid before running out of steam, predicting where your enemies will bounce and having someone in place to take the next shot, and working out great combos between the game's five classes.

All the classes share the same basic slingshotting mechanic, plus bonuses. Scouts can dash up to three times, making for some pretty wicked bouncing combos. Troopers can slam into the ground with great force. Healers restore life to any friendly squid they contact. And gunners, obviously, have ranged attacks to work with.

Wild West's levels don't just tell an interesting western story (including a not-so-great trip into uncomfortable racial stereotypes), they're also great fun. Spread between five main maps, they all break off into different types, with focuses on combat, speed, or exploration. And each level has three bonuses to earn, one for finishing within a certain number of turns, one for keeping all your squids alive and one for finding the hidden star tucked away in each level.

So yeah, if you didn't already know, Squids Wild West has a three-star rating system. But it doesn't feel so overdone, because the stars denote something far more important than just success: big-time rewards. The economy of the world is pearls, and you get them by earning stars. And killing enemies. And opening treasures. And pulling off cool tricks. You know the score.

Pearls can be used to level up your squids. More importantly, you can use them to buy hats. Hats aren't just for lookin' good (though they're great for that too), they're also an important type of alternate advancement. As you earn them you can transfer their stats to each of your squids, eventually building up some pretty great stat bonuses.

Now let's address the elephant in the room: IAP. Squids Wild West has been tuned and tweaked until there is absolutely no necessity to make any purchases. And the IAP packs are more than generous—filled with power-ups and pearl bonuses, cosmetic hat options and even the option to max out and unlock everything. Pro tip? Don't take advantage of that last one. Unlocking and leveling is half the fun.

Once you master all the levels and beat the game, there are still bonus levels to work through, secret Squids to discover and, oh yeah, Seahorses to find. Seahorses are pretty great: launch a squid into them, and you can use their added movement to do even more damage in a single turn. Multiply that with generously distributed random power-ups, and you can put your enemies through a lot of hurt in very short order.

Squids Wild West isn't fundamentally different from its predecessor, but it's a great follow-up. It's also an excellent chapter in the story of Squids, one with dramatic tension, clever dialogue and all those kinds of good things. I could do with more series like this, especially ones with such quick turnaround. Let's hope The Game Bakers has plenty of chance to continue this tale, because if the first two games are any indication, Squids is a series with legs.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • iHateU

    Its fun. I never played the first one. Might check it out.

  • iHateU

    Why do you keep deleting my comments? All i said is its a fun game!

  • KoRoV

    Please... 4,5 stars for this SH**, and 2 stars for spiderman and dead trigger??? PLEASE

    • Prab

      Erm... Apples and oranges?

    • 1Fcm

      Spiderman, Dead Trigger, and Squids are completely different games in completely different genres. If you are going to complain about an opinion at least point out games in the same genre.

    • Tondog

      Spiderman and Dead Trigger both deserve their scores for the reasons stated.

    • FraggleJP

      This is a totally fun game and is great in every area. Totally worthy of 4.5 stars. Flashy 3D graphics do not make a game great by default.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GCAKZJZ3MT4R3OPI4OD64FXXSU G G

    Really? Speaking of shit, you truly believe Spiderman and Dead Trigger deserve anything more than two stars? Im surprised they eve have 2, they deserve 0. Typical MW3 kiddies.

    • KoRoV

      At least 3, 3.5 stars. Those are MOBILE games, what did you expect??? Full new york, buy a newspapers on street? Thrue, DT could ba alot better, but SM is great game for MOBILE!

  • whatshit

    Touch arcade review system is the most inconsistent pile of dog turd I have ever witnesses. I think most regular readers will agree. For the last year every half decent game has been 4 ish stars, And didn't you guys say you don't review the 1 or 2 star games on the app store? Yes. So why now are games like dead trigger two star games?

    I don't care how tech demo dead trigger is ,it's better than the 100 puzzle-physics games you gave 4 stars to over the last year.

    Remove the star ratings they are more than broken now.

    • 1Fcm

      What exactly is it that's inconsistent about the reviews? Do you mean its inconsistent with your opinions of games or what? These reviews are just an opinion. How does one persons opinion lessen your enjoyment of a game? I don't always agree either, but I also seek out reviewers that tend to have the same tastes in games that I do. This way I can read what reviewers are saying and also compare that with specific reviewers that usually share my opinions.

    • farnsworth_pro

      There are some other great sites out there. TA reviews are the opinions of its writers. You may or may not agree, but I wouldnt want them to pander to any kind of random "standards" anyway. It's supposed to be the opinion of the reviewer. When I dont like what I read here, I often just go somewhere else.

      Perhaps you can find another site which showcases reviews which are more in line with your own.

  • thedavemc1

    Seems nearly every review recently is getting 4 or 4.5 stars. This definitely doesn't feel .5 off a sword & sworcery or infinity blade. It's fine, like, but it's far from great, and I love turn based games.
    Likewise legion of the damned gets 4 - it's a distinctly average game nowhere near the best of tbs on iOS.
    Reminds me of the speccy era where 70% meant crap and 95% meant pretty good.

  • theundertow

    Tis snuck up on me...never played the first but spending a lot of time with this lately.

    I got a scout that can Dash 6x yo!

    Nice mix of strategy, customization/development, and story.

Squids Wild West Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 4.5