It has been a while since we've had a Hands On Preview, but The Game Bakers have been kind enough to set us up with a preview version of the game and we couldn't help ourselves. As mentioned previously in our News Wrap-Up, Wild West puts the adventuring heroes of the first Squids game in to a psuedo-Western environment, complete with all new characters based around this theme.
Two of these characters, Calamary Jane and Cleef are featured in the Preview, and while they may be 'Shooters' just like Clint, the base stats are significantly different, with Cleef even featuring a signature 'double shot' to make up for his significantly weaker attacks. Thanks to the new 'compare' option, it's that much easier to work out who is currently the best addition to your team, though purists may still end up sticking with the same old crew from Squids.
...And you'd still do perfectly fine with them, though there are a few new hazards to watch out for. Notably, 'explosive lobsters' have joined the fray as a neutral trap, exploding a short time after being touched, triggering further explosions if any others are nearby. Combined with a bit of luck and clever use of each Squid's special abilities, they can make short work of large packs of enemies; though more often than not they'll also be used to barricade the player from bonuses, making them a natural counter to sea-horse mounts.
One particularly interesting enemy that has cropped up in Wild West is the 'Armadillo' shrimp - a foe that takes little damage until it has been flipped by a mount. Of course you can punt them off the edge of the map, but positioning your shots will be more critical than ever as you try to keep the enemy in range so they can be focus-fired.
The important question in all of this is whether or not the game feels significantly different enough to warrant a brand new game. Given the little we've been allowed to see it's hard to say how all the new features will pan out, but Squids feels at home with its new theme and the additional gameplay elements and interface refinements turn an already great game in to a potentially amazing one.
The Game Bakers promise even more new gameplay elements than what we've seen in the preview, so with any luck we'll have a lot of fun unlocking all twelve heroes in the game over the course of its 40+ mission story.
Until then I might just try to three-star all of these levels... for research you understand.