Ikachan tells the story of the eponymous squid (as “Ika” is Japanese for squid) that suddenly found himself in an underground cavern created by earthquakes that threaten to destroy the ecosystem completely. With this, Ikachan must do whatever is necessary to save the underground dwellers from imminent disaster, all while feeling like a perennial outsider within the community.
Ikachan has been around for quite some time, and it actually serves as the spiritual prequel of Pixel’s Cave Story, which was released way back in 2004. Following in the footsteps of Cave Story, Ikachan has been released for the 3DS, and for good reason, as this title is expected to gain the interest of gamers who have enjoyed Cave Story when it was released on October of last year.
Ikachan plays out like a standard platformer with RPG elements thrown in. The character must traverse the various twists and turns within each maps, all the while avoiding traps and the numerous enemies within. Along the way, players would be able to level up as well as gain a few items that would enable them to gain special abilities such as the ability to attack enemies. Ikachan emphasizes the simplistic nature of gaming as the character can only move directly in two directions – left and right – with another button dedicated to let the character swim in the chosen direction. Of course, leveling up by defeating enemies or attacking fish will allow Ikachan to evolve and gain more abilities that will help him along the way.
Another similarity between Cave Story and Ikachan is with their distinct plots. Both characters awake in an environment that they are not familiar with, and they must perform quests and interact with other NPCs in order to escape. By the end of the story, it will ultimately be up to the player to save the people in the world that he cannot call home, and he would be able to earn some friends and allies along the way. Despite the similar thread across the storyline, Ikachan is still able to play out as a unique game, even for players who have played Cave Story either before or after they did the former.
Ikachan also focuses on the glory days of 90s gaming by presenting itself in retro style. There are no 3D effects to speak of or CGI cut scenes, but everything is displayed in glorious 8-bit. Even the sounds reflect the music of the times, giving older players who are forced into the changing times to celebrate a bit of nostalgia, as well as allowing the newer generation of players to see what old school gaming is really all about.
The game is also relatively short, as players can complete the entire story within two hours, but it will surely be time well spent as players will be fully immersed within the storyline and setting of the game. It is a simplistic game, true, and players might find it not worth their time to play through for the second time around. Still, you could still say that playing Ikachan is still time well spent, despite its lack of a lengthy running time.
Ikachan is also one of those games that did not put in any additional content once it was decided that the game be ported to the 3DS. Thus, players of the game from over a decade ago should not expect anything new from the game, aside from the fact that Ikachan, which bears a striking resemblance to the Mario enemy Blooper, can now be controlled using a handheld gaming console. This decision can affect the title either way, as it does not offer anything new, but is great especially for those who think that anything that is not broken should not be fixed.
To those who have followed Cave Story in both its Windows and 3DS incarnation, it can be quite interesting to see how Ikachan was able to influence the game. Truly so, there are some elements within this title that Cave Story fans would be quite familiar with, and this could also very well be the reason why Ikachan was able to stand the test of time, and is capable of still garnering some new fans, whether they have played Cave Story or not.
Ikachan can be quite a breath of fresh air for gamers who want to turn back the hands of time, or for those who would like to play something that is simplistic in nature, something that does not require Mensa level intellect or Olympic level finger dexterity, but is enjoyable all the same. Players will find Ikachan a joy to play due to its regular charm that does not aim to impress, but is capable of doing so in its own right.
Just like Cave Story, Ikachan will find a new home in the Nintendo 3DS, a console which has continuously ported some retro games to reintroduce a whole new generation of gamers to the golden age of gaming. This title does not require fancy graphics, an elaborate storyline filled with NPCs with their branched out backstories, or a days long running time. It is a simple game set in simpler times, and its linear story will be a unique experience for players not familiar with how great games are made without all the glitz and glamour.
Despite being short in total game time, Ikachan can prove to be quite an enjoyable, albeit brief, time, with good storytelling elements and simple, yet solid gameplay that Studio Pixel has been known for. Those who have loved Cave Story should definitely give Ikachan a try, if not only to see where one of their favorite titles basically evolved from, but to be able to lost return back to the time when video games need not be elaborate just to be considered as great.
Tested on Nintendo 3DS. Final Score: 7/10
Ikachan is a freeware game from Daisuke Amaya and Studio Pixel. It was published independently with help from Nicalis for the Nintendo 3DS. It was released for the PC last June 23, 2000, while it was recently released for the Nintendo 3DS via the 3DS eShop.