I Would Have Gotten Away With It Too, If It Weren’t For Those Meddling Squids! A Review of Cephalopods: Co-op Cottage Defence

I played this game for one day–just one day–and I hate green Squids.

Not the luminous blue ones, or the black ones. Not even the exploding fiery orange ones. The Greens. Just the Greens.

So I made an unexpected trip to Canzine 2012 this past Sunday: where I was reintroduced to the Comics Vs. Games-premiered The Yawhg, given a paper ninja-star, and talked with a few artists and game creators before finding The Hand Eye Society’s Torontron game cabinet arcade machines outside. I always loved arcade games when I was younger and I never got to play with enough of them. So finding these there was just an added bonus.

My friends and I started to play this game that I later found out was called Cephalopods: Co-op Cottage Defence by Spooky Squid Games. At the time, however, I found myself controlling a 16-bit sprite with a shotgun in a house along with my hammer-wielding friend as we were being surrounded by floating Octopi.

I didn’t have time to admire the Lovecraftian settings of the house’s interior: such as the book with the Squid imagery or the almost Victorian laboratory feel. I also didn’t realize that the hammer-wielding sprite–that the character was a female scientist–nor that her clearly non-human shot-gun wielding companion was a clockwork automaton of her own creation. All of these revelations came later when I looked at them online.

No, instead I was either killing mass-Squids that electrocuted and devoured heads, or hurriedly knocking Squids unconscious with my hammer as I was trying to repair the walls of the house to offer us protection against these tentacle-armed hordes.

This game was fun. I admit, I really liked killing those Squids. I also felt some satisfaction in repairing the walls and seeing those plus numbers come up: which probably represented how much time or durability it had before it fell again. There was another quality to the game in that, aside from the two-player cooperation that is utterly necessary to your survival, you also need a certain amount of coordination as well. Essentially, it is integral that your gun-shooting companion fires as the most of the Squids while you repair the most isolated of the walls: such as the walls that are not being massed by tentacles of doom coming to suck your face in the middle of the night.

However, there is also the option of exchanging tools: throwing your gun or hammer to your friend. It takes timing and coordination and, sadly, we did not manage this. Sometimes the sprite’s maneuverability was a little awkward and stiff. I remember at least a few times I tried repairing a plank and not realizing I had to get very close to it to do anything with it. Apparently, according to the Game Over text, we had something to the effect of having as much coordination and teamwork as a bunch of “golden weasels.” Suffice to say, it wasn’t complimentary, but certainly made us laugh.

But then, as the game went on (after each time we died I mean), it began to occur to me that something was very … eerily familiar about it. It was the Squids that obviously made me start to think this. And I knew I had seen them somewhere before: these 16-bit luminous deceptively cartoonish tentacled monstrosities. I knew it was from some research I did before but I didn’t know the name of the thing. Then much later I realized they were related to this:

Night of the Cephalopods was something I had read about when I was looking at Spooky Squid Games (god I love this studio’s name) for my article Dreams of Lost Pixels and if this is anything like the game I played tonight–and the voice-over narrative actually happens in this game–I may well download it. This is a big thing for me because, like I have said many times before, I don’t often play games. I watch them being played sometimes, and I play a lot of selective games on older Nintendo consoles, but this game makes me happy. In fact, Spooky Squid Games seems to really love H.P. Lovecraft as a thematic influence of theirs and it is one of those influences that makes me want to write a Lovecraftian story tribute of some kind.

My friend today was talking about going to some Indie (Independent artist) Jams sometime: to make ad hoc independent creative collaborations together. I remember Comics Vs. Games and I’d love to collaborate as a writer with a video game artist. I would really love to do a Game Jam sometime. Just as long as it is not a slime. If Cephalopods has taught me anything, it’s that I hate being stuck in slime … and Green Squids.

Oh, and even though I only played the game today and for a little while, I want to give it a five out of five.

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