Terror Squid is the hardest game I’ve ever played. Just how hard, exactly? My record time has been just 95.51 seconds. At the time of filing this review, just to get into the game’s Top 100 requires surviving for at least 20 seconds, though perhaps that says more about the number of players who have dared to pick the game up.
Taking place on a 3D sphere, with vector-style graphics that would make it sit comfortably alongside other old-school arcade shooters, it’s not exactly a shooter, even though it’s firing bullets non-stop. As your titular squid moves, it leaves behind a trail of projectiles, and since you’re on a relatively small sphere, that means it’s all going to come back to a bullet hell of your own making.
Erratic movements are to your detriment, so you need to think about how you move so that you stand a chance of dodging the upcoming danger. Your only help comes from a cooldown-based warp dash and the ability to blow up projectiles in close proximity with a detonator that takes time to charge.
Using the detonator also moves you to the next phase – or ritual, as the game calls it – with a new pattern of projectiles you then have to deal with. Frankly, the first ritual is child’s play compared to what you have afterwards as these become harder to detonate, meaning you’ll end up having to avoid multiple projectile patterns on a map with less space to hide. And that’s usually where my run ends.
In fact, as a game where the leaderboard only takes time into account, you might find it better to just try and last as long as you can on the first ritual, literally running rings around the sphere until you’ve filled up every last inch before hitting the detonation, instead of rushing head first into one ritual after another.
But either way, most of us mere mortals are unlikely to survive further than the third or fourth ritual before your squid meets its maker, let alone see the 16 possible rituals that exist before it loops back ad infinitum. I’ll have to concede that I was only able to see beyond the first few rituals by referring to a YouTube video uploaded by a player called Timoshi, who at the time of writing topped the leaderboard with 687.12 seconds survived.
True to its hardcore nature, there are no concessions, no cheats, no power-ups, only your pure skill to survive. To say that this won’t be for everyone is an understatement, then. Judging by Terror Squid’s disturbing teaser marketing, it might just be content with becoming a cult urban legend, lingering in a dark, dusty arcade visited by those few in the know.
A game this spartan and oppressive has few pleasures, apart from simply surviving a few more seconds than the last. There’s nonetheless some source of amusement in hearing the different words of encouragement (or admonishment) coming from the dark computer voice after every detonation result, like ‘Radical’, ‘Jolly Good’, or ‘Holy S*’.
Old school, no frills, hard as hell, and it doesn’t care. Take it or leave it.
Genre: Bullet hell
Format: PC (tested) / Mac / Switch
Developer: Apt Games
Publisher: Apt Games
Price: £7.19 (Steam) / £8.99 (eShop)
Release: Out now