Developed By: Hero Concept
Published By: Hero Concept
Category: Action, Arcade
Release Date: 08.08.19
Approximately forever ago (OK, less than a year, but still) I reviewed the first game from Turkish studio Hero Concept, Doughlings: Arcade. Now, slightly less than a year later, the studio has released their followup, Doughlings: Invasion for the Nintendo Switch. Arcade was a take on the classic formula first introduced in the legendary Atari game Breakout, and Invasion continues the studio’s proud tradition of updating classic Atari concepts with some fresh ideas and little floating guys that look like pink Geodudes. This time, we’re getting a new spin on the Space Invaders formula, updated with the special morphing abilities and upgrade systems similar to the ones from Doughlings: Arcade. I mean, you do play as the same little pink dude, so it makes sense that he’d have the same abilities, right?
The Meteor Was a Feint!
In the first game, you play as Dr. Morpheus, a Doughling tasked with saving his species from a mysterious disease brought to the planet by a meteorite. Well, here in the sequel, we get the next chapter in that saga. It turns out that the meteorite was just the first step in a full-on alien invasion! While most of the Doughlings are still recovering from the virus and/or being smashed in the head by the “medicine” Dr. Morpheus smashed into their faces repeatedly, only Dr. M is healthy enough to fight off the aliens. So he does what any good citizen would do; grab a rifle and face down hordes of invading space tentacle monsters all by his lonesome. Just like in the first game, the story is a little light, but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining or fun. The game type doesn’t exactly lend itself to a deep story anyway; why would an invading alien species line up and slowly drop towards the surface of the planet instead of just swarming over literally the only guy resisting them? It doesn’t make any sense. Better to keep the story light.
As I said in the intro, Doughlings: Invasion is pretty obviously an update of the Space Invaders formula – heck, it’s even got a variation of “Invaders” in the title. As such, the basic gameplay loop is the same. There are rows of aliens that move back and forth across the screen, occasionally dropping down a row when they hit one end of the screen. You control Dr. Morpheus, and your basic actions are moving back and forth across the bottom of the screen and firing at the invaders descending upon you. You can only have one bullet in the air at any time, which kind of slows the game down a bit, but I can’t honestly remember if that’s from the original Space Invaders or not, so we’ll give it a pass. Some levels have shelters you can hide under which will block the occasional shot fired by the invaders.
There are different types of aliens, as well, that have different abilities that may activate when you shoot them. For instance, a green alien will turn blue when you shoot it, and blue aliens are the lowest form of invader; shoot a blue alien, and it’s gone from the screen. There are also enemies like wooden aliens that just drop to the ground when you hit them; be careful, though – if they hit you when they drop you die. The variety of enemies was a pretty cool addition to the game; it brought an additional level of challenge to the gameplay, and even a little strategy. You don’t want to be under a dropping enemy, and you also don’t really want it to hit your shelters, since a dropping wooden alien can collapse a shelter even if it’s at full health.
Finally, Doughlings: Invasion imports the Showoff feature from its predecessor. Showtime is activated by collecting likes – little thumbs-up icons that drop from defeated enemies. Every like collected lights up a spotlight at the top of the screen, and when you get ten spotlights, it’s Showtime! You can now activate your Showoff ability. The base ability is a gun that fires special bullets that count as a hit against every alien adjacent to your target of the same color. It is conveniently titled the Color Gun.
It’s Morphin’ Time!
Much like in the first Doughlings game, the main new feature of Invasion is Dr. Morpheus’s ability to grab strands of DNA and develop special powers for a short time. The DNA strands are held by the aliens, and when one drops, you temporarily gain special abilities. My favorite is the first one you get, which turns you into a Doughling that looks like (but I’m sure is legally distinct from) Cyclops from the X-Men. You get his laser vision, and can fire through whole columns of aliens as long as the power is active. As it was in the first game, your morphing ability is a really cool, fun element of the gameplay that elevates the game beyond being just another Space Invaders clone.
Doughlings Mk. II
In every level, three special targets fly across the top of the screen. Hitting them grants you special potions at the end of the level, which you can use to unlock upgrades for Dr. M’s different forms. Generally, this just makes whatever special abilities that form has stronger; for instance, the basic form upgrades your Showtime ability by giving it more bullets or fewer likes needed to activate. The Zap form (AKA the not-Cyclops form) makes your beam stronger or allows the transformation to remain active longer. I think the game wouldn’t change too much if the upgrade system was removed, but I’m almost always in favor of more depth in my games – it just shows me that the devs actually care about what they’re doing.
They Still Look Like Geodude
I could pretty much copy and paste my thoughts on the graphics and music from the first title here. It’s a tempting idea, too; I am incredibly lazy, after all. But in the interest of doing my job properly, I will not. The graphics do look sharper than they did in Doughlings: Arcade, but the underlying aesthetic is largely the same. The graphics have a hand-drawn, cartoony look to them, which, when combined with the game’s bright color palette, make for an attractive art style. The music remains a cheery electronic affair, with some funky beats thrown in for a little more excitement to accompany the game’s action. As it was with the first game in the series, Doughlings: Invasion’s art direction is perfectly solid.
Doughlings: Invasion has no touch or motion controls, so you can play it docked or undocked with little difference. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really play this one undocked much: I was hit by the dreaded Joycon drift just a little bit after I started playing. I didn’t notice any drop in graphical quality, though, so I think you’re safe picking your preferred mode of playing this one. I don’t have any strong recommendation one way or the other.
TL;DR: A fun new take on an Atari classic
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The Switch Effect was given a game code for purposes of this review.