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Comprehensive Reviews

Random Reviews: The Underwater Edition

Rating 4.33 out of 5
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This was supposed to come out before the SEGA Sequels edition, but things have a funny way of working out like that. Anyhoo, for those who have been around for a while, you’ll notice that this seems suspiciously like my old column Random Selections. It basically is, except I decided to rename it to Random Reviews just because that way people realize from the title that it’s actually a post with reviews in it. Pretty clever, huh? Anyway, enough housekeeping. Let’s get on to the reviews…

In this edition I’ll be looking at two games with underwater themes – Squid Drop and The Fish Dies In The End. One is horizontally oriented and the other vertical, but they both involve lasting as long as you can. Unfortunately, one got it a little bit more right than the other when it comes to fun factor. So which water world won in the end? Read on to find out!

Squid Drop

I actually received this game as a preview, but I sort of blew it off after a couple of plays because I didn’t think it was all that interesting. After hearing several people rave about it on Twitter I went back to play some more and now I’m rather addicted to the silly little game. So what changed? It turns out the developer got one thing wrong in his level design strategy – he put the boring level designs first. Once you get into some of the more advanced adversaries, this game will have you hooked.

The Eyes Have It

The Eyes Have It

You play a little squid that just wants to get away from it all. You’re continually descending into the depths, but there are a lot of creatures that want to stop you from getting anywhere. Once you get past the first couple of levels, each level is filled with a particular type of creature that will do whatever it can to stop your progress. Some creatures will charge you, others will just move back and forth on the screen to try and block your path, and the puffer fish will blow itself up to cover as much of the screen as possible. There’s even a level where gates block your progress, and you must grab a key to unlock the gate. Unfortunately, not every part of the gate goes away when you grab the key!

The levels are randomly generated, as are the order they are presented in. Even those first levels get a makeover eventually, containing creatures that didn’t exist in them the first time around. To guide your little squid you simply drag your finger back and forth on the screen. The squid descends automatically and at a constant rate, so all you’re worrying about is moving it back and forth. Along the way you can pick up golden orbs that decrease your score (in this game your score actually goes negative, which is good) and bubbles that make you temporarily invincible and give you a score multiplier. The controls work well enough, though sometimes it’s hard to be precise. This is most notable in the gate and key level. The only other issue I had is that in some levels it’s hard to know until it’s too late which way you need to go.

A Key To What?

A Key To What?

The visual style is simple and clean, and actually serves the game quite well. Backdrops are basically ribbons of the same color in multiple different shades, with scraggly edges to give them more of an organic look. The creatures are silhouettes, some of which have dashes of color. Others have bright white eyes to give them some detail. Many of them don’t really look like sea creatures, but they look cool which is the main thing. The sound effects are decent enough, with each creature having its own signature noise. As for the music, there is only one tune, but that’s more than enough. I’m not sure if it’s an original composition for this game or not, but the song is a big part of the reason I was willing to stick with Squid Drop long enough to find out how good a game it really was.

If you like simple “dodge everything and last as long as you can” style games with a bit of substance, Squid Drop is exactly what you’re looking for. Don’t let the basic levels at the beginning fool you – there’s plenty to discover if you stick with the game for more than a few tries. Cool silhouetted characters, interesting sound effects and rockin’ background music create a great atmosphere. This is one casual game you won’t want to miss.

Final Verdict: Recommended
App Store Link

The Fish Dies In The End

Much like Squid Drop, I wasn’t really impressed with this game in the beginning. Unlike Squid Drop, however, The Fish Dies hasn’t grown on me quite so much. It’s certainly not a bad game, and the cute fish should keep the kiddies entertained, but to me it felt like something was missing. I just haven’t completely figured out what yet.

Instead of descending into the depths, in The Fish Dies you’re just trying to swim through the ocean for as long as you can. It seems like all the other underwater creatures have it in for you, however, and they’ll do anything they can to stop you from making your trip (maybe they think you’re searching for Nemo?) Of course, “anything they can do” roughly translates to “swimming in such a fashion that if you can’t get out of the way they’ll run into you”. Still, they’re pretty good at what they do.

Seems Peaceful Enough

Seems Peaceful Enough

You have three hearts with which to complete your journey, and every time you hit something you lose one of those hearts. You will occasionally run across a heart to help replenish your lost ones, but if you play the game like I do those won’t come along nearly often enough. If you want to actually avoid the inhabitants of the ocean, you hold the screen to swim up and let go to sink back down. It’s pretty simple, though sometimes it seems like the initial lunge upwards when you press the screen can be a bit jumpy, messing somewhat with your precision and timing.

To me it just feels like you need something else to do. There are hearts (and apparently pearls) to collect, but those things come along so infrequently that its more like a quick diversion than anything. The Fish Dies is basically an underwater version of the old helicopter in a cave game, and while that’s not bad, modern users need a little bit more from their gaming experience. At least the game does have some Game Center achievements to earn, though several of those are even based solely on number of plays. I need a bit more incentive than that to keep on coming back.

At Least Jaws Travelled Alone

At Least Jaws Travelled Alone

Despite the somewhat ominous name, the atmosphere is actually pretty cheerful. The visuals are colorful and the characters look cute, though some of them make awfully mean faces. Every character is animated at least a bit, and there are bubbles floating from the depths and schools of fish swimming in the background to give the whole ocean some life. The sound effects are actually kind of annoying, but thankfully you can turn them off without affecting the music. The tune that plays in the background is actually pretty upbeat and bouncy. It suits the lighter atmosphere of the game quite well.

I’m kind of torn on this one. There are moments, especially when I’m getting close to grabbing another achievement, that I actually somewhat get into the game. Then there are other times where I’m perfectly content with playing just one game and moving on to something else. With as many of this type of game as there are on the App Store, I want something that’s going to keep me hooked every time, and The Fish Dies In The End just isn’t it.

Final Verdict: On The Fence
App Store Link

So there you have it – a quick look at what’s happening in the underwater scene on your iPhone. I don’t know what’s coming next, but I’m sure that whatever it is, there will be at least two games to talk about. Until then…

Quick Looks link: [All About Quick Looks (applies to Random Reviews too)]

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Discussion

One comment for “Random Reviews: The Underwater Edition”

  1. Hi, there Squid Drop developer here. Thanks a lot for the kind words! Just chiming in to A: Confirm that yes, it is an original composition and B: I’m hard at work with the first Squid Drop upgrade.

    Stay classy!

    Posted by T. Benjamin Larsen | May 6, 2011, 11:39 am

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