In an unlikely but plausible(?) scenario an octopus and a submarine have lost their way and sunk to the bottom of the deep blue sea during an epic battle. With the octopus still latched onto to the spinning watercraft, the two enemies must now unite in order to escape from the deadly depths. This establishes the premise for TACS Games' Wii U eShop title, Octocopter: Super Sub Squid Escape.
In a similar fashion to the 2014 revolving limousine computer game, Roundabout, and also the Kururin series, Octocopter puts the player in control of an octopus-manned vessel that won't stop spinning. This is presumably because the giant orange sea creature is interfering with the submarine's on-board navigational system. Regardless of what exactly is going on, this simple concept acts as the game's core mechanic; the player's role is to make the best of the situation and guide the squid-sub to safety.
Octocopter is divided in to a series of worlds, made up of multiple levels and end of world bosses. Despite the levels being referred to as "mazes", the design of each one is relatively linear due to the boundaries in place. Some of the later stages can become more challenging to navigate due to spiralling pathways and corridors with no end in sight, however this exploration adds to the overall enjoyment.
The learning curve in Octocopter isn't steep, but it certainly requires patience; the spinning sub obviously does not stop. This makes travelling through each level a dangerous task. Touch a wall or enemy and the squid-sub will lose one of its three hearts; lose all three and you'll be required to restart the level. The biggest problem are the winding and spiralling sections, and just about any turn you encounter. With the sub always rotating, movement throughout certain parts of a level must be perfectly timed. Particular sections on each stage will often require the sub to be spinning in a specific direction (either clockwise / counter-clockwise) - for example, if you're attempting to make it around a tight corner, the sub only has a small window to pass through at an ideal angle, as it will keep spinning and eventually make contact with a wall.
To make each stage easier the A button can be held down to move faster, and the B button makes the vessel spin faster. Precision timing, movement and accuracy are vital; each level is designed to encourage the player to improve upon their previous run until they manage to achieve a perfect rating. The X button, meanwhile, allows the submarine to fire a missile. This will help clear crystals and rocks blocking pathways, or when enemies are attacking the unlikely duo - including bosses. The missile feature also adds to the level of intensity in the latter stages of the game, when the spinning movement of the ship will often result in you completely missing your intended target. Again, near flawless skills are required. Each level is also filled with enemies, obstacles and tools to assist you; for example rubber buoys can change the spin direction of the sea craft. More enemies and obstacles such as sea slugs and spinning blockades are also introduced along the way. Fortunately there are orange health pads located about half-way through each level that will replenish any hearts lost and keep the submarine and octopus afloat until the green exit pad is reached.
The end of level bosses range from narwhals to stingrays, and can withstand a number of hits before they are defeated. The battle normally begins with a few easy missiles hitting the target, and then dangers such as tentacles appear out of nowhere ready to take down the submarine. For such a small scale project, it's great to see the developer embracing classic big boss battles. Most of these boss encounters are more fun than challenging, and act as a nice break from the main levels that can become a little too intensive from time to time.
Octocopter is supported by pleasant visuals. The 3D graphics highlight rays of sunlight reflecting off waves above, schools of fish swimming about, seaweed swaying, floating jellyfish drifting along and glimmering crystal rock formations. There are some nice additional visual touches including smoke explosions from missiles, bubbles rising to the surface, and even a glowing light at front of the sub to help assist with navigation. This is all impressive for such a small game, and refreshing compared to the many pixel-bit games available on the eShop. The 3D most importantly compliments the top down perspective of the title.
The music is very jolly and is somewhat reminiscent of a water level from a game like Rare's Banjo-Kazooie - though obviously not on the same level of craftsmanship or perfection. A notable downfall is that there appears to be no sound or music available when playing directly on the Wii U GamePad. Other than that, load times can also be a bit slow, and there are no other control options beyond the GamePad.
Octocopter: Super Sub Squid Escape is an enjoyable budget title. Admittedly it requires a bit of patience before it all clicks, but once you get the hang of the challenge it's rather fun to perfect each run. If you also happen to be craving a sea themed game, Ocotocopter is one to consider - despite the intensity from time to time. If you've always dreamed of guiding an octopus submarine to safety, this could be the game for you.