Thanks to some unscrupulous moves by greedy game developers, the term "free-to-play" has quickly become synonymous with games having constant ads harassing you to buy other products, overpriced in-app purchases, and skewed game mechanics designed to entice gamers into repeatedly spending money. Squid Up is one such game, but the question remains whether this free-to-play title falls victim to the trappings of its predecessors.
The gameplay is simple and straightforward. You play as a little squid and hop up a series of rotating wheels, avoiding hazards, collecting money, and trying to stay ahead of the torrent of lava bubbling up after you. The only controls are jumping straight up. If you want to reposition yourself, tough noogies. You'll spend most of your time moving from rotating wheel to rotating wheel, and you'll use these rotations to get where you need to go. The level is arranged the exact same way every time you play, and you'll always start at the beginning, so you may get better by virtue of remembering where everything is, you're also likely to get bored without the randomized elements typical to iOS platformers. Squid Up's pretty darn basic in every way possible.
The music provides a gentle backdrop for you to have your equally-gentle adventures. The levels themselves look fine, though unimpressive. Your squid character, however, is a shameful little non-sprite of a character with only two frames of animation — jumping and resting. That would be inexcusably basic 25 years ago; compared to modern gaming it's laughable. With such simplistic gameplay, the way Squid Up's developers, Abyssal Games, hope to entice you to spend money is through their store. There are upgrades available to enhance your squid character, extra skins, and other assorted goodies. You can either spend coins, which can be earned in-game, or pearls, which can be earned by typical free-to-play methods like watching ads. If you plan to spend gold, be prepared to play a lot to gather the resources you need. Squid Up is very stingy with its cash in the hopes of pushing you to spend real money, and with a game this basic and generic it comes off as even more unscrupulous.
There are dozens of better platformers out there. Some give you the glorious option of paying for them upfront and enjoying 100% of the game from there; others are "free-to-play", but cost your time and/or try to get you to repeatedly spend money on them. No matter what kind of iOS platformer you're looking at, though, it's probably going to be better than Squid Up, which about as average of a game as you can possibly make. It's fine, it works, but there's just nothing special to it.