- Developer: Bit Loom Games
- Publisher: Coatsink Software
- Release date: 03/12/2020
- Price: £22.49 / $24.99
- Code provided by Coatsink Software
Introducing: PHOGS! Switch Review
There’s a certain type of indie game that, when I see even just a glimpse of it, I immediately have the urge to play it. Whether it’s due to creative concepts like Donut County, or if it just looks fun, like Sayonara Wild Hearts. So when I saw two adjoined dogs having the time of their life, PHOGS! too became one of those games I instantly had to try. But is the gameplay there to back up the concept? Or is its main idea better than the actual execution?
Bark, Bite, and Bounce
Having even just a paragraph of this review dedicated to the story of PHOGS! feels like too much. The game is very deliberately not focused on that at all – in fact, there’s not one word of dialogue. You’re just plopped into a tutorial level, and after doing that, you’re in the main hub. You can choose between 3 worlds, and once you’ve beaten them, you’re granted access to the final level… and that’s that!
There are, in a way mini stories that each world has. One world has this flying… being(?) constantly messing with you, and he ends up being the boss of that world. But you’re not getting much more than that – and that’s totally fine. The charm of the random NPC’s you stumble across and the world design in general is what pulls you through – a narrative would have only been a detriment to PHOGS!
PHOGS! can be played in single player or in multiplayer – either through online play or though each player holding one side of a controller. I played the entirety of it in online multiplayer, so I can only assume playing in single player is the equivalent to playing that one Animal Crossing minigame in Nintendo Land – where each joystick controls one character, and the difficulty comes from trying to control both at the same time.
You really only have 3 basic functions besides moving – barking, grabbing, and stretching. Barking gives you the tiniest bit of height, making it a fun way to try and cheese certain puzzles, grabbing is pretty self explanatory, and stretching allows you to – you guessed it – stretch away from the other dog. In a way, the gameplay at times feels very similar to Snake Pass, as you’ll find yourself wrapping one dog around a pole while the other stretches down a ledge to grab a slightly out-of-reach item.
Good Boys, Okay Game
Each of the three worlds has a gimmick – the Play world (my personal favourite) is the most varied, in that it hops between an arcade level to a level focused on freezing the dogs (meaning you can’t stretch or turn but you can still move) to a level where you’re doing carnival minigames to collect stars. The Sleep world resolves around hiding from guards, using a moon to light up certain blocks, and waking up/putting certain NPC’s to sleep. Finally, the Food world mostly resolves around… watering things and distracting enemies… and that’s pretty much it.
Unfortunately, my opinion of the game seemed to drop the more I played. While PHOGS! tries its utmost to keep things varied with plenty of new gimmicks throughout the game, the initial fun of the game’s concept wears off rather early on in this somewhat meaty 8 hour game, so what you’re left with is a rather easy puzzle game, where most of the fun just came from the banter with my friend. I’m glad I didn’t play this in single player, as I feel like I would have lost my motivation to keep going about halfway through.
All Bark and No Bite
It’s not like PHOGS! is bad though! For one, I am a huge fan of the presentation. It’s an extremely colourful game full of the cutest little characters – and I mean, having a dedicated bark button never gets old. The game also has a lot of incentives to keep playing beyond just beating all the levels – there are bones you get for either exploring or fulfilling mini side-quests in the levels, as well as one hidden NPC per level.
You can then buy hats with said bones. The incentive is there for those who want to keep playing. But personally, I’ve had my fill of PHOGS! Beyond it feeling rather repetitive after a while, my other big issue with it is how glitchy it constantly is. At first, it’s pretty funny. Seeing my character get stuck into a wall and then wiggle erratically before phasing through got a good laugh out of me, but there is far worse that can happen.
There is one boss in particular (though that doesn’t mean the rest of the game is polished by any means) that honestly felt impossible in its current state. We were constantly getting stuck in a box which was meant to fling us upwards, and trying to exit multiplayer and re enter it caused the game to crash for me. There’s also the fact that the game constantly de-syncs.
Usually the de-sync resolves itself pretty quickly, but there were occasions where, for example, I was carrying an item, while my friend just witnessed me carrying nothing while the item stayed still in its spawn point. Sure, this isn’t an issue in local co-op, but that’s sort of hard to set up currently! My only other gripe on the technical side of things is that, in both handheld and TV mode, this game lags semi-frequently. But, it’s not exactly like the game requires lightning fast reflexes at any point, so this seemed like a drop in the bucket compared to the bigger issues that plague this game.
All in all then, PHOGS! is a mixed bag. I desperately want to like it for the creative puzzles, charming presentation and fun multiplayer, but the constant bugs, easy difficulty and ultimately repetitive gameplay hold it back from greatness. It’s a nice distraction for you and a friend, but it brings with it a lot of caveats.
- Immensely charming
- Creative puzzles
- Lots of replay value
- Very glitchy
- Too easy
- Feels repetitive after a while