Published on February 4th, 2013 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
A Short Story about Fish’n’Squids: Ikachan Review
Developer: Daisuke Amaya
Platform: Nintendo 3DS (eShop)
Publisher: Nicalis, Inc.
Ah yes, the art of “people watching;” the keen eye discovering various body types and variations in genetics. Much like the compounds in which people are derived from, stories about these people come in similar shapes and sizes. Some stories are short, petite and right to the point. Others are long, filled with boisterous tales and could take a lifetime to fully understand. Even the shortest of books can provide you meaningful conclusion if the right elements are present.
Ikachan is a digital title developed by Daisuke Amaya (Pixel) and published by Nicalis, Inc. The game’s creator, Daisuke Amaya, might not sound familiar, but his previous works should. His prior studio creation, Cave Story, has been praised for its platforming prowess and significant contribution in music. The game boasts an 8-bit art style and is chock full of 2D nostalgia. Living in the same neighborhood, Ikachan takes on the same stylized characteristics and sends them to the far depths of the sea.
The game was developed as a PC title and is essentially a port of that version. In regards to looks, it was translated over to the handheld console with ease. If you were looking to check out the original game, click here to download and install. The PC version is freeware and still designed by Studio Pixel.
The story is simple: swim, explore and escape. The opening brings us to the bottom of the sea where Ikachan, which translates to “tiny squid,” awakens. The title and protagonist share the same name and is referenced simply as “Ikachan” during gameplay. You will immediately start to swim and explore the depths of the 2D world. Talking to the inhabitants of this underwater maze will allude to the games storyline. Events will occur and allow access to other parts of the map. You’ll do a lot of talking and revisit many areas in order to progress. There are a few “chores” that must be completed for NPCs, but conversations with them are fun and quirky. Beyond that, there isn’t much else under the sea.
The button layout is simplistic in design. The ‘A’ and ‘B’ buttons propel your character while the ‘X’ and ‘Y’ buttons access your inventory. There isn’t a forward projection per se; rather, moving is based on gaining momentum. Tilting Ikachan is done with the directional or swivel pad. If you were to imagine the physics in which a real-life squid moves, there isn’t much horizontal movement. This is mimicked in-game and plays a part in the mechanics.
Throughout each level there are plenty of obstacles to avoid. “Bad fish,” sharp coral and the occasional leaping crab may cause you damage. Doing damage gives your ‘Level Up’ bar positive fillings, leading to an eventual power-up. Positive points are gained by consuming fish or defeating enemies below your power level. Health is shown in the form of hearts and quadrants are lost when hit. The more levels you reach the more hearts you carry. Locating a clam is your safe haven. Sleeping inside of one will restore health and allow you to save your game.
The leveling process doesn’t impact the game much. You’ll get to a ‘Level 4’ or beyond, but it doesn’t really cater to the game’s needs being that you are exploring 75 percent of the time. The other time is spent talking to random sea creatures and discovering just who this big, bad Ironhead dude is. In the case of Ikachan and its exploration, these discoveries won’t take you long.
The game itself wraps up rather quickly — there wasn’t enough time to fully understand the underwater world, nor its inhabitants. Just when it started to get ‘magical’ and really take a grasp of my sea legs, it was over. You’re looking at 30 to 45 minutes, and even shorter on the second playthrough.
Even in its brevity, Ikachan sports some magical elements. You’ll discover underwater creatures and a few nifty things, such as pearls and a pointy hat. The 2D map opens up to explore with events like earthquakes occurring thus changing the landscape. There are a few run-ins with some ‘bad fish’ but, as stated before, it ends rather quickly. The overall theme of the game is interesting all things considered, yet again, it leaves more to be yearned for.
I wanted to explore more with in the cavernous depths of the sea and beyond. More levels to be played and gained. In terms of a PC port, there is no doubt that the Nintendo 3DS version shows its colors as such.
There’s a lot that can be discovered in a story. Video games offer an interactive environment where experiences can unfold with players behind the steering wheel. Even short fables can offer something interesting or magical for those willing to breeze through its pages.
The story of this tiny squid delivers a short story, but it’s almost too short. We get little development and discovery of just who our main character is. There isn’t much in terms of length, leaving a feeling of wanting more. I wouldn’t mind continuing on this journey for a full level of completion.
While the art style and music are pleasant echoes of 8-bit nostalgia, the brevity and halting adventure don’t allow us to live that very long.
+ Art Style/ Presentation
+ Light (Very light) RPG elements
– Character Development
– Story explanation