Developer: Bit Loom Games
Genre: Puzzle, Platformer, Adventure
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 3+
Release Date: 03/12/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Puptastic Platforming Puzzler
Hands up if you’ve heard of a Phog? Anyone? Nope. Me neither. Allow me to introduce you to Red and Blue, the two (or should I say one…) stars of this puzzle adventure title from Bit Loom Games. You’ll be making your way through three distinctive worlds; each one VERY different than the last and trying to navigate your way through this charming and downright silly platformer. The main hook is that the aptly named “Phogs” are a pair of dogs with a twist; they share the same body!
You can play as both Red and Blue in single player, or you can team up with a friend to control one each; now given that they share the same body, you can imagine this makes things a little bit trickier than your usual co-op adventure. It’s great to see the developers have included the option to play online as well; although for pure hilarity I’d definitely suggest being in the same room. The aim is to get through all of the three worlds to reach the final temple.
You’ll come across a lot of interesting looking locals, hungry mouths to feed and bouncy vegetables but one thing I noticed wouldn’t falter was the Cheshire grin I had on my face throughout. The world that Bit Loom Games have created is nothing less than glorious. You’ve got your main hub where you’ll be travelling to the different themed areas, and off of this, you can dive down what can only be described as huge dinosaur heads to reach each one.
Quirky and Creative
Throughout all three worlds, you’ll come across environmental puzzles, switches, levers, mechanisms and lots of golden bones! The golden bones are the staple collectable; with three, four or five in each level and one boingle to find. I’m really not so sure of the boingle’s origins or their purpose aside from fixing that itch of getting every last one. These are optional; however, if you like dressing up (as I do), the golden bones net you different customisable hats for both Red and Blue. That’s a big thumbs up from me. Once you’ve completed all six levels in each world you’re then tasked with the boss level, these were some of my favourite stages, and I don’t want to spoil them in the slightest. All I will say is that they’re incredibly creative and so much fun to play.
Red and Blue’s movement can be tricky to master that’s for sure; it’s a fairly simple premise but one that can require A LOT of patience. When you’re navigating the smaller ledges and platforms just one wrong flick of the control stick can have you plummeting to your doom. One stick controls Red and the other controls Blue. You have the ability to grab with your mouth as well; this is used mainly for pushing and pulling, activating switches, carrying items and generally saving your bacon.
The last ability Red and Blue have is the stretch. This will extend your body, meaning you’re able to reach much further, you’ll find yourself using this one a lot. Before diving into Phogs I was definitely under the impression that this would be a co-op adventure only, one that if you played solo you’re not really playing it as intended which to some can be a bit of a downside. I played half my time in co-op and half my time solo; after a few minutes, the solo play wasn’t all that difficult even when controlling both Red and Blue. I thought it would make the game’s mechanics incredibly frustrating, but I’m happy to report I was 100% wrong; if you’re more used to flying solo don’t be put off by the quirky nature of Phogs.
Barking Up The Wrong Tree
This does bring me nicely onto a few niggles I had with the game. Unfortunately, not everything is as fluid with Red and Blue when trying to solve the environmental puzzles; there are some incredibly obscure solutions in a couple of the levels that you sometimes think you know the answer for. Then you try to execute this solution, and you can’t quite reach the “end goal” to progress. Nine times out of ten, the puzzles are challenging enough not to feel too easy for veteran players and easy enough to master for newbies.
I couldn’t help but feel the head-scratching moments I had, were more related to trying to manipulate Red and Blue in ways that weren’t physically possible rather than not knowing how to reach the solution. There were quite a few times where the game did glitch out, and I’d be either floating in mid-air or the bouncing mechanic from the environmental set pieces didn’t function correctly; we have been reassured there’s a day one patch for release day, so hopefully, this is all fixed by then.
One final thing is the fixed camera. It doesn’t always follow you as intuitively as you’d like. You may find yourself staring at the bottom end of an ice cream sundae instead of looking what’s ahead. With the golden bones and boingles hidden in harder to reach areas, a free reign of the camera would have felt a lot better. However, I can understand why this decision was made, given there would be no functionality with the current control scheme to move the damn thing.
The visuals are incredibly cutesy and fit the playful world of Phogs perfectly. Each of the themed areas are executed spectacularly. I really enjoyed each one, and because they are so different, they feel incredibly fresh and exciting. The music is very charming and ticks along nicely in the background and those boss battles. They are special and unique just in the way they have you tackle them.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Phogs, and I’ll be following Bit Loom Games very closely to see what they have next. A fantastic world with two very special leads, to be enjoyed both single-player and with a friend. The blend of puzzles and platforming is a good mix if only let down by some poor physics and clunky handling when solving some of the puzzles – especially those end sections. You’ll be able to sink a good eight to ten hours with Red and Blue and then if you’ve missed any bones, boingles or unlockable outfits the replayability is there. If you’re looking for something a bit different with a lot of heart and imagination, look no further. Phogs is your game.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase PHOGS! from the Nintendo eShop.