PAX Aus 2019: Hands-on with Giant Margarita’s Squidgies Takeover

The indie games in the Rising area of PAX Australia are some of the best to check out, we got to check out a bundle of them including this one Squidgies Takeover from Giant Margarita.

Giant Margarita is an indie dev team from my home state of Tasmania, known best for their series of excellent arcade party games: Party Golf, Party Crashers, and the upcoming Party Poppers. It was interesting, then, to see that Giant Margarita’s next project was a single-player puzzle game, exclusive to the Switch. The team described Squidgies Takeover to us as “Lemmings with physics,” and that’s absolutely spot on. 

In Squidgies Takeover, you’re tasked with safely delivering adorable little puff-balls called Squidgies to a safe place, so they can take over planets and, presumably, start the cutest little colonisation you’ll ever see. Each level has a host of Squidgies to deliver, and the environments through which you’ll be delivering them are far from safe. To help them on this quest, you have access to a wide variety of interesting power-ups — one turns a Squidgie into a floating balloon, another turns it into a heavy iron ball, and yet another freezes it in place. Simply tap on a Squidgie to activate the power-up (you have a list of power-ups available in each level, and you must use them in order), and try your best to get as many home as possible. 

It’s an oddly addictive affair; we expected we’d spend 20 or so minutes hands-on with the game, but ended up playing for close to an hour — an impressive feat after a very long day of standing and walking on sore feet. There’s just something deeply satisfying about the gameplay loop, and after launching a dozen or so Squidgies into a raging inferno and hearing their terrifying screams, you feel it’s your duty to keep trying to save them and help them take over planets.

There are dozens of levels on offer, and clearing a level gives you access to surrounding levels on the game board; these levels can be the next stage of difficulty, or you can jump from level 5 to say, level 60, to really jump into the deep end. After clearing a level, you’ll also get access to special missions in that level, that task you with completing certain objectives, such as killing as many Squidgies as you can in a short time frame, or clearing the level only using one power-up. Just to note, as well, you can play in both handheld on the touch screen or in docked with a Joy-Con pointer, similar to World of Goo. 

While a departure from Giant Margarita’s more recent releases, I’ll be interested to get my hands on Squidgies Takeover when it launches next month. Just… don’t make me listen to them scream in pain again. My heart can’t take it.

Squidgies Takeover might be one of the most horrific games I played at PAX this year. Not because it’s bad, it’s in fact quite brilliant but because the way the poor little Squidgies die in the game is just so upsetting. Let me explain.

The Squidgies need a new home, these morphing little balls can change into various morphs in order to accomplish this. If you’ve ever played Lemmings then you’ll know how to play Squidgies Takeover. The Squidgies popup on screen and it’s your aim to get them to their goal, the allotted power-ups per level can change the Squidgies into balloons, make them super heavy, freeze or fling them across the screen. Some of the Squidgies will inevitably die on the way to the portal, but it’s all for the greater good. The cry they let out when they do die, it’s haunting.

Getting the Squidgies to do what you want is easy, but you’ll have no choice in the order in which the morphs are able to be used. This might make the solutions to the levels might seem easy, or not allow for freedom but we even surprised the developers by coming up with ways of finishing the levels that they personally designed that they hadn’t thought of. Once you finish a level you can go back and perfect it, and they’ll even be leaderboards when the game launches later this year. If you’re not a fan of pointer controls, you can use the touch-screen, although we weren’t able to sample this on the PAX Rising show floor.

Giant Margarita’s previous releases have been all party affairs, this single-player game is a new direction and it’s shaping up to be a lot of fun.

Words: Ollie Brandt and Daniel Vuckovic

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