Published on March 6th, 2013 | by Christian0
Ikachan – Little Squid, Little Game
Summary: Ikachan fails to live up to the potential of its great premise, mostly because it never even tries to.
Ikachan is a recent addition to the 3DS eShop from the developer of Cave Story, Daisuke Amaya. I didn’t play Cave Story, and don’t really know anything about it even, except that it seemed universally well regarded as evidenced by its release on basically every platform imaginable. Ikachan first caught my eye during a recent Nintendo Direct. The look of it awakened fond memories of Ecco the Dolphin. I sort of forgot about it for a while, then one day I decided to buy it on a whim while browsing eShop. While at first I was kind of enchanted by Ikachan, I was ultimately left feeling kind of cheated. Not cheated out of my $5, but cheated out of what could have been a great game if there were just more of it.
So what is Ikachan? It’s kind of an underwater Metroid-vania meets reverse balloon fight. That is, you control Ikachan by holding a direction and pressing the a-button, which causes him to swim a stroke in that direction, and you fight enemies by hitting them with the top of Ikachan’s pointy squid head. At the start, Ikachan awakens in a network of underwater caves that have been cut off from the rest of the ocean by a series of massive earthquakes. A fish named Ironhead has taken charge of the sea creatures living there, and is in control of the food supply. Your job is to guide Ikachan safely out of these caves. It’s kind of an awesome setup, with matching charm in both visuals and story, but unfortunately it’s over way too fast (my end-game clock read 1h 23m) and doesn’t really go anywhere beyond the great premise.
When you start the game, Ikachan can’t attack enemies or break the loose crumbly brown rock formations that block his path. It isn’t until you swim your way past some spiky obstacles that you find a pointy hat. At this point, all kinds of angelic choirs were sounding in my head. I thought, “could I be playing a Metroid-vania?” I mean, I had just found an item that was going to allow me to open up new areas of the map that were previously inaccessible That’s what Metroid-vanias are all about! This game even has a leveling mechanic that’ll get you more life as you collect food and kill enemies. The possibilities seem endless, but a lot like the story, the basic mechanical premise is awesome but winds up going nowhere. In fact, you’ll find a grand total of two abilities in the entire game that allow you to explore new areas. Two! To make things worse, the new areas have the same tile-set, same music, same everything as the area you started in.
It’s not a poorly made game. It doesn’t have a bad story. It just doesn’t have enough game or story. Again, I’m not familiar with Cave Story, and have no prior knowledge of Ikachan or Ironhead or any of the other characters that appear in this title. Maybe I just don’t “get it.” I have been playing games for a long time though. Long enough to have developed a reasonable expectation of how much content a game should have, and Ikachan is severely wanting, especially when it gives you absolutely no reason to go back and play through it again after you’ve finished it once. If you’ve got $5 burning a hole in your pocket and you need 60-90 minutes of game more than you need that latte, then I suppose you could do worse. Take that for what it’s worth.