As Wii U production was drawing to a close at the end of 2016 in preparation for the arrival of the Nintendo Switch the following year, a game named Octocopter: Super Sub Squid Escape was released on the platform via the eShop. Drawing inspiration from the likes of the Kururin series, the gameplay was relatively simple yet surprisingly captivating. Like many other developers in recent times, TACS Games has now released an updated version entitled Octocopter: Double or Squids on the Switch eShop, with the revised name acknowledging the game’s all-new local multiplayer mode.
If you perhaps overlooked this the first time round, Octocopter places you in control of an underwater vessel that has a giant brightly-coloured octopus attached to it. The result of this tussle is an on-going interference with the submarine’s navigational systems, sending it into an endless spin. Together, the unlikely duo must now escape the deadly depths. It’s this back story that powers the game’s core mechanic, with your role to make the best of this situation by guiding the octopus-sub through each level to safety.
The game layout consists of a series of worlds containing multiple levels and boss battles. Although the levels on offer are maze-like in design, a lot are still relatively linear due to the boundaries in place – with the requirement to travel from the start to the finish. The challenge here is simply the navigation of the spinning octopus-sub. It only takes a short time to learn how the game operates, but travelling through each level requires some patience and a lot of precision.
As the sub is always rotating, moving along a path while avoiding environmental obstacles and enemies can become quite an ordeal, though somehow always remains entertaining. The hardest part about this task is the fact there are only three heart containers – meaning the squid-sub can only take so many hits before it’s sent back to the start of the level or the most recent checkpoint. Simply making contact with a wall or touching an enemy will deduct a heart point. Fortunately, the checkpoints in each level replenish any empty heart containers.
The design of each level normally requires you to manoeuvre the submarine through tight corridors and spiralling pathways. With long-winding levels, and a sub that is always revolving, to succeed you’ll have to perfectly time movement and angles in order to make it through any twirling pathways. Failure to pass through a section at exactly the right time or angle will result in your sub sinking to the bottom of the sea. Thankfully, there are a few ways to increase your likelihood of success – with the ability to move and spin the vessel faster to make it through any difficult to navigate sections. You’ll learn more as you work through the early stages of the game thanks to the inclusion of a helpful yet non-invasive tutorial system.
Occasionally rocks will hinder your progress, requiring you to fire a missile in order to clear the area – another ability that you learn about early on. Hitting a target as you might have guessed can be problematic when you are always spinning. Further down the track, you’ll encounter additional enemies like sea snails and need to make use of rubber buoys – allowing you to change the direction the sub is spinning (from clockwise to counter-clockwise or vice versa). This mechanic becomes essential in latter stages as certain pathways can only be passed through while spinning in a particular direction.
In each level, there are medals up for grabs (and an increased amount compared to the original release). To earn these medals you’ll have to perfect your run on each stage by cutting down your completion time while taking as little damage as possible and collecting every crystal. Just finishing a level can often be tough, so medals really add an extra layer of accomplishment.
Changing the pace from time to time are boss battles. While they might feel a bit too easy, especially in some of the earlier worlds, they are still welcomed none-the-less. Each one will have you facing off against a large oversized sea creature, ranging from narwhals to stingrays with each face-off comparable to classic boss battles, seen in past generations of games. Each battle typically requires you to hit a specific weak point on the boss, while avoiding threats such as tentacles popping up out of the sand. The dynamics of these battles change if you’re playing with other players. All of a sudden you’ll find yourself working together to take down the boss.
In addition to playing alongside friends and family while taking on the bosses, you can also play through the entire game together. The local split-screen multiplayer for up to four players is arguably the biggest selling point of Octocopter on the Switch. It doesn’t feel like a mode that’s been forcefully tacked on, either. It’s as simple as picking up a joy-con (or utilising one of the various other control configurations) and jumping in on the action. You can work together, but really, the aim in this is to race to the finish line before your opponent. Smart design decisions by the developer means you can’t have any physical clashes with your opponent, but you can still affect their experience as you are both playing on the same level. If you shoot an enemy, collect a crystal or deal damage to a boss, any multiplayer opponents will either benefit or be disadvantaged depending on your specific action. Putting down the controller in this mode is tough; as you are constantly spurred on to compete. It really is a blast.
The performance, sound and visuals add to overall the package. The Switch version of the game runs well in both the single and multiplayer modes. Undocked the experience is just as satisfactory – it certainly feels superior to the Wii U version. The load times have also been drastically improved and the controls feel super-smooth. The presentation of the title compliments the top-down perspective. The improved camera angles also help – with the 3D visuals highlighting rays of sunlight reflecting off the waves above, seaweed swaying in the underwater currents and glimmering crystal rock formations. There are also other visual spectacles including explosions and bubbles rising to the surface as well as new and improved animations. The game looks sharper on the Switch because of these touch-ups. The sound is a just as fitting for a deep sea adventure – with music that is filled with mystery and intrigue, and in many cases reflective of the depths below.
Octocopter: Double or Squids is still just as enjoyable as it was when it was originally released on the Wii U. With a number of updates that improve the overall experience and the inclusion of multiplayer, original owners who did enjoy it the first time round have a great excuse to buy it again. For first timers, what’s on offer here is a relaxing yet oddly exhilarating deep sea speed runner that will put your navigational skills to the test while encouraging you to improve each run. The new local split-screen multiplayer for up to four players is also fantastic, as we really don’t see enough of this in modern games nowadays. Either way, it’s worth taking Octocopter for a spin.