By Sato . January 30, 2013 . 4:30pm
Japanese indie game developer, Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya, once made a very famous game that you’ve likely heard of. It’s called Cave Story. Prior to developing that game, however, Pixel worked on Ikachan, which is slated for release on the Nintendo 3DS eShop tomorrow.
Here’s the premise: you play as a little squid named Ikachan, who wakes up in an underwater cave and must find a way to escape.
Upon starting my underwater adventure, I felt just as lost as Ikachan; no instructions or directions on where to go. Luckily, the map is pretty straightforward so it wasn’t too difficult to find my way around. The controls felt a little different from what I’m used to, as the 3DS Circle Pad is used to turn Ikachan towards a direction and the A or B buttons are used to swim towards wherever he’s facing.
The underwater physics of Ikachan actually reminded me a lot of the Super Mario Bros. water stage, but with a little more required in the way of coordination skills. Initially, I button-mashed my way around but quickly realized that doing so in a hurry would lead to me swimming right into the environmental hazards placed around the map. For example, there are a couple of carefully placed spikes, which I found to be rather deadly, given that you only start out with two hearts. There are also unfriendly fish swimming around that can also deal some damage if you’re not careful. With that in mind, I had to pace myself carefully.
One of the first things I noticed were the many inanimate fish lying around, in addition to the hazardous ones. Acquiring these increases Ikachan’s EXP bar, and for some odd reason, it’s quite satisfying to go about collecting them. After doing some more exploring, while collecting fish in OCD fashion, I came across what looked like an early 1900s diving suit. It contained a hat item, which would end up being Ikachan’s first weapon. Now we’re talking!
You use Ikachan’s head to attack enemies. Killing them gives you EXP points as well, which took a little joy away from my fish collecting, but having the ability to attack gave me something else to appreciate. You’ll need to take note of enemy patterns if you want to be able to kill them effectively.
For a while, I felt as if not even the mightiest of sea monsters could stop Ikachan’s rampage with this newly acquired power, but my dreams were crushed upon encountering the crabs. Hitting them only made a “tink” sound and did no harm. I found out that it meant I wasn’t leveled high enough to take them on, and so conquering the sea would have to wait for another day.
After exploring the map for a while, I found myself stuck, mainly because I avoided the friendly sea urchins in the game for the longest time, their glaring eyes leaving me with the impression that they were enemies. When I accidentally talked to one of them, I found out that they were in fact friendly, and they provided me with a chain of objectives to open new areas.
There are other NPCs to interact with as well, and they play into the story. My most memorable part of Ikachan was when I inadvertently helped a bully fish named Carry. He’s a henchman under the employ of the self-proclaimed boss of the cave, known as Ironhead. Carry offers to give you a pearl, which acts as an ID all creatures are required to have, in exchange for something rare. At the same time, there’s a storehouse watchman urchin who is missing his pearl.
After getting the pearl from Carry, his greed takes over and asks you to bring food from the storehouse. Hesitant at first, due to the food shortage, the watchman gives you shrimp tempura. After Carry supposedly gives it to Ironhead, he claims that his boss demands more food. So there I was, going back and forth between him and the watchman, giving him more food, until the watchman noticed the pearl I was holding was in fact his.
I found the entire map of Ikachan to be quite small, but the interaction between the many sea urchins and other creatures made it feel larger than it actually is. The amusing dialogue gave each friendly NPC their own personalities, and the simple-yet-interesting story made me feel responsible for saving the sea creatures and their tiny habitat full of little dilemmas.
Ikachan ended up being a much shorter experience than I had expected after playing Cave Story, but I still enjoyed every bit of it.
Food for thought:
1. We’ve all grown accustomed to Pixel’s catchy tunes. Ikachan doesn’t boast a number of soundtracks compared to Cave Story, but its main theme heard throughout the game never gets old. I still catch myself humming the song whenever I think of the game!
2. Ikachan definitely requires patience at some parts, especially in the areas full of spikes. It might feel a little slow and sometimes frustrating to get by some of the places, but over time you’ll become better at maneuvering and it isn’t much of a problem.
3. Explore all of the areas when you’re stuck. I actually got stuck on numerous occasions, only to find an event triggered just by visiting an NPC who had nothing to do with anything, up until that point.