When Microsoft originally unveiled the Xbox One, the Kinect was advertised as an integral part of the new console’s vision. Since then, the company has stripped the Kinect from bundles and basically pushed the technology into a dark corner like some sort of red-headed stepchild (Don’t worry, guys. It’s cool. I have red hair). Thankfully this doesn’t mean developers have forgotten about the hardware’s potential. Once every thousand years when the 7 planets of a Alderon align, a decent Kinect game emerges from the darkness to shine a light of hope for Kinect owners. The recently released Squid Hero from Virtual Air Guitar Company is one such game.
If you’re looking for a game with dramatic storytelling, deep characters, and complex RPG mechanics, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for a solid Kinect game that’s equal parts fun and ridiculousness, then I’d highly recommend diving into the world of Squid Hero.
“This wild quest for coins is merely to fund his borderline dangerous obsession with hat collecting.”
Our hero, who just so happens to be a squid, finds himself floating down rivers in various locations around the world and it’s his (her?) duty to collect as many coins as possible while flinging glaciers into each other and dodging logs, wooden planks, and even naval mines. This wild quest for coins is merely to fund his borderline dangerous obsession with hat collecting. Unfortunately not everyone shares our heroes love of hats and there are vicious robot animals hellbent on keeping him from expanding his collection. It’s your job as the player to help guide our cephalopod friend through these harrowing challenges.
A huge problem with the original Kinect was the almost unmanageable input delay. The Kinect 2.0 has made huge improvements in this department and Squid Hero is a shining example of that. I was honestly surprised by how well the game responded to my actions in real time. I was constantly flailing around like a complete maniac and my squid character was flailing right along with me. I never noticed a delay, even when I went into extreme glowstick rave mode. I carefully watched those little squid appendages bend, twist, and contort in hypnotizing unison with myself. It was like looking in to some absurd funhouse mirror that transformed me into an orange squid.
Like I briefly mentioned above, the core gameplay mechanics are very simplistic. A majority of the game involves your character slowly drifting down a river while ice balls of varying colors float down beside you. If you can grab these ice blocks and smash them into a block of the same color, you’ll be rewarded with a shower of coins. These same ice blocks are also used as your primary source of defense in the game. When encountering floating mines or even boss monsters, you can grab these frosty projectiles and hurl them into key locations to inflict serious damage or cause massive explosions.
One of my favorite segments in the game kicks the speed into overdrive and forces you to dodge incoming wooden obstacles. As the player, you get yourself into power-squatting position and dodge left or right to avoid logs and walls. There are even bonus coins lined up in risky positions that deliver an extra challenge for greedy players. I really enjoyed the speed of these sections. It was a fantastic contrast to the somewhat relaxed speed of the core gameplay. Just imagine skiing as a giant orange squid.
“Getting two people together to impersonate wacky waving inflatable arm-flailng tube men is honestly endless fun.”
The length of Squid Hero is much longer than I expected considering the style of the game. It took me roughly two hours to complete my first playthough, which is fairly short in a general sense, but definitely substantial given the arcadey nature of the game. Unfortunately replayability is ultimately going to be determined by how much you enjoy collecting hats. Gathering coins to purchase hats was a really neat way to add some customization to the experience, but one playthrough was enough for me to get almost every single hat and I don’t personally see myself investing another few hours just to get that sweet king’s crown. That being said, I will most certainly be coming back to revisit the 2-player mode co-op mode any time a friend asks what multiplayer games I have on Xbox One. Getting two people together to impersonate wacky waving inflatable arm-flailng tube men is honestly endless fun.
Squid Hero isn’t going to replace your favorite game or keep you from endlessly grinding nonsensical resources in Destiny, but it will deliver hours of unique and genuine fun. I had a huge smile on my face the entire time I played this game and to be honest, it just felt really good to get some use out of my Kinect. Absurd titles like this prove that developers can do really amazing things with the hardware. AAA developers may have forgotten or dismissed this technology, but the indie scene is keeping the dream alive and I sincerely hope other teams take a note from Virtual Air Guitar Company’s book.