There are definitely areas where Dogworld stumbles, such as some overly difficult moments and a lackluster conclusion, but overall it’s a pretty good boy.
Genres: Platformer, Shooter
Release Date: 18 March, 2021
When first offered the chance to get a review copy of Dogworld (DW), there weren’t any reviews or current YouTube videos on the game, so I had little to base any judgment over it. However, when I checked out the trailer, and read about a dog abundant ecosystem, it seemed like too novel a game for someone with the name Fruit N Doggie to ignore. If I can’t flourish in a Dog World, who else has any hope?
DW is a 2D platformer and gunner game, though unlike many games of that style, doesn’t have RPG elements. Your health bar won’t be increasing as you progress, so there isn’t an easy out to avoid having enough skill to beat the game. However, as you gun down foes, you’ll occasionally pick up a new weapon, which can be upgraded with cash at the hub village. These are quite worthwhile, as they’ll make them much more effective, sometimes by increasing the range or reload speed, or by increasing the DPS. Following the events in the game, you essentially are given marching orders on different areas to traverse through, either to acquire or fix abandoned tech left behind. Such quests always have a boss to overcome, all of which provide a decent challenge.
The developer recommends playing DW with a controller, which suits my preferences anyways, though there would be an option to play with the keyboard. Movement is controlled with the ‘L joystick’ which is also used to aim your fire, though you can only shoot in 4 directions, unable to fire diagonally. Unfortunately, there’s not a way to strafe while firing in the same direction. Speaking of, firing the weapon is done with ‘X’ while the ‘R’ and ‘L bumper’ buttons cycle through your weapons. Holding down the ‘L shoulder’ button brings up a map, and the ‘R shoulder’ button activates a slide dash. The slide dash doesn’t propel you a certain distance, so you have to hold it for the time you want it to last, though it only holds for a few seconds.
Although the premise seems dog forward, the main character is actually some guy with a gun, who gets the moniker of Boy. While living in an underground facility, sealed off in a protective pod, he winds up being thrust onto the surface. Boy starts exploring his surroundings, being helped out by a good doggo named Roxy, and learns more about what led to this dystopian future. Throw in some Daddy issues, taking up the previous burden of Man, and Boy has his work cut out for him. Story elements are told through notes left behind by people from centuries ago, conversations with the helpful doggo village, and interludes with enemy forces. This keeps the pace going at a decent rate, with it regularly moving along as you play.
The first thing you’ll notice about DW is that it’s almost entirely black and white, except for items colored red. Curious whether this pertained to dogs being color blind, I did an online search, and found that this is a myth and they actually see at least some colors. So if nothing else, playing DW led me to learn something, though this myth may be part of the game’s color scheme. Regardless, I’d say the graphics for DW are serviceable. Like almost all black and white games, there’s only so much detail that can be made with such a limited palette, so environments are fairly spartan, with areas beyond the floors and ceilings being pure black. It’s still easy enough to understand and see what items are supposed to be, and I don’t think this design choice hindered the game.
When it comes to the sound library of DW, it takes a while to get used to. Some of the noises are a bit aggravating or hard on the ears, until you get acclimated to them, and then they don’t seem quite so annoying. The sound design reminds me of NES titles. However, it doesn’t have the refinement or polish that made some of those songs toe-tappers, with such appeal they’ll still show up on compilations of great video game soundtracks. I think this area is tolerable in the game, but wasn’t a high point.
- The difficulty balance is alright, though it could use some readjustment. For example, I think it’d be too hard for those who aren’t already good at games like this. Enemies can be a threat, and you’ll certainly take damage from them. However, you have enough HP available to take a few hits, maybe pick up a heart or 2, and get to a save point to refill your health and save your progress. Bosses have save points before and after them, and offer enough muster that you have to learn their pattern, yet none of them were too overbearing or bogus.
- DW isn’t afraid to take full advantage of the dog NPCs for maximum cuteness.
- Enemies have interesting designs, since many look like dogs.
- Boss fights and hidden chests only reward you with money. It’d have been nice if these rewards were a bit more meaningful, or at the very least if they increased the amount. Even after intentionally grinding for money from the claw machine, I was woefully short of the money needed to buy upgrades for the final weapon I got.
- It’s likely you’ll die against many bosses, and DW doesn’t set up a convenient check point at the start of the fight after you die. So you have to reload your last save and read any pre-fight text, before taking another shot at it.
- There’s some arduous areas to get through near the end of the game, which really tests your platforming and dodging abilities. If Tombstone had just one more checkpoint mid-way, I think it’d be better.
- There’s a decent range of weapons available, and you’ll need to learn when to use which ones. The barrel launcher is more of a niche tool, since it can only be used if there’s a barrel nearby. The starting weapon is a decent all-around choice, able to target small enemies well due to its spread. Like any shotgun, in DW it deals good damage, but takes some time to reload and it’s easy to miss the shot. The heavy machine gun takes getting used to, as the fire rate increases if you hold it down, so you need time to warm it up. There’s others, but this is a decent summary.
- There’s no shame in dying to any of the bosses, even an early one. However, if you find yourself struggling with repeated deaths, you’ll likely have difficulty beating the game. One thing that might help is to grind for money from the village claw machine and buy all the weapon upgrades available. Otherwise, be sure to use the slide dash move, as the invulnerability period is generous and will help you avoid taking damage.
- Save early, save often.
This is almost a spoiler, but after you beat the final boss, the game just abruptly ends. There’s no ending cutscene or interaction with the main character and prominent NPCs, which means there’s no resolution for anything leading up to that moment, including what happens to all the other people stuck in the pods. With how well paced the story was, I really expected to see some loose ends coming together, perhaps a New Game+ for all the secrets I might have missed, but nothing like that is available. I can’t say I’m not disappointed by this, and think there were other misfires in some design choices with the game. It’d be much more satisfying an experience with an ending after all. However, though it has some rough spots, and I was getting ticked off with the final boss, DW is a pretty good run and gun game. I wouldn’t suggest picking it up for full price, but for those up for a bit of a challenge, it’s a good choice.