Cave Story's underwater side-story arrives on 3DS.
The acclaimed Cave Story has made the console rounds thanks to publisher Nicalis, but its independent developer Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya has a cache of smaller games that haven't had a chance for wide distribution. Ikachan is one of those games. Taking a "break" during the development of Cave Story, Amaya created Ikachan, an underwater adventure starring the eponymous squid.
Partially due to its common development heritage, Ikachan's design is highly reminiscent to Cave Story. Like that adventure, the dark backgrounds and blocky environment are joined by an RPG-inspired leveling system. Ikachan also begins the game with amnesia. In an abbreviated Metroidvania style, Ikachan must traverse the caves repeatedly to complete quests and find a way out of the caves.
Despite taking place underwater, the controls are not cumbersome, though they are a bit unique. Ikachan naturally floats downward and can change direction, but initially can only jet in certain directions (up-left and up-right). He quickly discovers a cap that lets him break through boulders and attack enemies. Ikachan levels up by eating fish and attacking enemies.
The similarities are not limited to the trademark visuals. The characters seem light-hearted, but the situation is dire. Earthquakes have caused cave-ins underwater, blocking access to a steady food supply. Ironhead, a large fish who rules the caves dictates that its citizens must carry a pearl on their head, and those who do not will be attacked.
A cynical scene occurs early on. A giant cache of fish lures players in, while a sign warns them not to enter. Ignoring the sign, players will find themselves trapped in a room of spikes, and the path closes on them. The only escape is suicide.
The game has been polished from its original release and runs in the 3DS's native resolution. Backgrounds appear on different planes, taking advantage of the system's steroscopic capability, and a map screen resides on the bottom screen. Curious players can join Ikachan soon as the game should appear on both 3DS and DSi early next year for $5.