Thanks to Squidlit Ink for the review code
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 01/14/2020
In this Game Boy throwback, you take control of a Squidlit, a creature that has the power to stop an evil emperor known as Skwit Skwot from creating a dangerous weapon!
Like another Game Boy tribute revolving around a squid that came out a while ago, Squidlit aims to be a throwback to the Game Boy line of systems. While we’ve seen both good and bad Game Boy throwbacks before, I’m happy to say that Squidlit is in the better half of those tributes, fitting the accuracy part pretty darn well!
Like Mr Tako, the game gets the color palette and border down right, although there’s only one option for each in this game, the border looking closer to the Neo Geo Pocket more than the Game Boy, although it does still have a battery light and now even a contrast dial. (Which moves to correspond with your contrast choice, as a cool touch!) Likewise, the pixel art is done very well, and I was surprised by how hard they worked on the accuracy in this game, since I noticed the sprite limitations that I recognized from real Game Boy titles show up in this game, albeit without any sort of slowdown or flicker.
The animations are also pretty great, animating smoothly and the walk cycle of your squid is absolutely adorable. Combine that with a decent soundtrack that sounds fitting to Game Boy hardware, and you have a game that nails the Game Boy presentation.
Squidlit is a simple action platformer, the title screen showing you the entirety of what you need to know to control the game. You move with the D-Pad, jump with the A button, and jump a second time to attack from above using your ink. That’s all you need to know, and once you ink up the title screen, the game begins!
Upon starting the game, you get told by the village elder to set out for the dark castle and find out what’s going on… Then you’re off! The game doesn’t give you much info to go on, but the game is super linear that it doesn’t take long to get used to the game, which in turn led me to discover just how tight these controls are.
Yeah, there’s just a jump button we’re dealing with here, but the Squidlit stops on a dime most of the time, and considering how you’ll need to make calculated jumps to damage enemies, this tightness really comes in handy. Each of the game’s stages are relatively short, with most of them requiring that you simply make it to the exit door at the end of the stage. However, some of the stages try to shake this up a bit, usually by adding a requirement to defeat a certain amount of enemies, or adding locked doors you need to open.
Every now and then, you’ll run into a boss fight, and these ended up being pretty darn fun. The first one shifts the game to a horizontal shooter, where the tight controls carry over. Shoot the boss down, and you move onto the next level, since the game doesn’t really work with “worlds” like some platformers, but rather, a stage-by-stage progression kinda like an older arcade game, or a platformer from Konami. (think Operation C or Castlevania) Some levels do have hidden bits where you can find muffins (Which restore your health), but these aren’t really that substantial.
In all honesty, the most surprising part of this game for me came from the dialogue, which is surprisingly funny and well written, while also allowing for some dialogue options. I ended up finding out that you can change the game’s ending this way depending on how you react to certain things, which leads to a nice bit of replay value, considering how the entire game is 40 minutes long and offers no saves or passwords whatsoever. Still, while I normally would find that to be a bit of a problem, something about Squidlit clicked with me more than it did. Maybe it was going from something like Awesome Pea, which also claimed to be a Game Boy throwback only to be another hastily made 8-bit game, to something like this where everything that needed to work just… Worked. The controls are rock solid, the presentation is really darn close to a real Game Boy title, and they even allow you to tweak the contrast, something not even a single Game Boy rerelease I know of has allowed the player to do.
Combine that with the fact that what I intended to be just a 5 minute trial run to check out the controls turned into an entire playthrough where I was deadset on beating it without a single death, (Which I proudly accomplished in the end) and Squidlit is a throwback platformer that gets what it needs done, and little else. While I do dig games that go above and beyond and offer lots of bonuses and goals to unlock, sometimes simplicity is a better focus, especially if it leads to the entire game being enjoyable rather than just one small portion, and grips the player immediately.
In conclusion, I found myself enjoying Squidlit a lot more than I expected to! Despite the lack of any sort of save or password feature, the game itself was incredibly engaging to play and beating the entire thing from start to finish took me no more than 40 minutes, which is a perfect length for this sort of Game Boy platformer, and also leads itself to being the sort of game I’d definitely pick up and play through again every few months.
Considering the tight controls, the great soundtrack, and the outstandingly faithful recreation to the hardware, this came as quite a surprise to me, considering how it originally seemed like Squidlit was just trying to ape the style of Mr. Tako. In the end though, I found myself vastly preferring this squid platformer over that one, and while both are solid platformers, this one’s shorter length and simplistic, fun platforming makes this a must-have for the $2 pricepoint, as the game manages to make a name for itself and stand out on its own. I just wish there was more replay value outside of the multiple endings you can discover, and some way of incorporating those achievements from the Steam version would have been helpful for that.
I give Squidlit an 8 out of 10.