Doughlings Arcade takes an old concept and brings it into the modern age with some new features and interesting ideas to boot. The end result makes for a game that will indeed only sing to a niche gathering, but even so, those that try out what Doughlings Arcade brings, will no doubt leave feeling happy. It’s not a game that you’ll rush home from work to play, but rather something to soak up during your lunch hour. That being said, it’s a very week on Xbox One as far as new releases go, so does this game shine brightly enough to justify a recommendation?
That depends entirely on what you’re looking for. However, if you’re specifically seeking out a new brick breaker game, Doughlings Arcade will fill that void nicely. The premise tells the story of a poisonous meteor crashing down in the Doughlings’ dimension. The poison has struck many victims but one such Doughling is unharmed and unaffected; Dr Morpheous. Not only that, Dr Morpheous has found a cure to rid his fellow Doughlings of their illnesses and it falls to him to step on up and save the day. It’s a simple plot indeed, but then, much of the allure here sits with the gameplay.
The aim of the game, much to be expected from any brick breaker, is to propel your ball from the bottom of the screen to the top, hitting as many Doughlings in the process as possible. Initially, players will take on the role of Dr Morpheous, but additional iterations will be unlocked in due course – each offering a signature DNA move and a helpful, distinct presentation. Players can slide their character from left to right, which is necessary in order to deflect the ball back to the upper half of the screen. This creates a constant ping pong-like motion that will play out until you’ve liberated all of the Doughlings above.
Doughlings will appear in a range of different colors, presumably signifying the strength of their toxic virus. This means that certain Doughlings will need to be hit multiple times before they’re free of their virus, to which they’ll then gleefully fly off the screen via a cutesy animation. As progression is made and more per-level stars are unlocked, players will be able to upgrade their character’s super abilities. These characters, or iterations to be specific, alter how the game can be played in a number of interesting and fun ways, giving Doughlings Arcade some added edge and replay value.
There’s Smash, Gunner, Webster, Robo and more to work with, alongside the main man Dr Morpheous. Their unique abilities can be used once you collect ten excitements (thumbs up) following the liberation of a Doughling. You can keep track of how many you have collected through stage-lights that will illuminate at the bottom of the screen. Once all of these lights are lit, players can trigger what’s known as “Show Off”, which enables the use of the aforementioned super ability. This is where Doughlings Arcade showcases some of its imaginative design choices, and they all vary magnificently.
Dr Morpheous’ super, for example, allows him to target several Doughlings at the same time, whereas Smash’s super will hit all of the on-screen targets at once, and so forth. These supers can be extended and upgraded through collectible elixirs, obtained via completing the game’s levels. Safe to say, there’s enough diversity here to see the game through to its end. My only gripe sits with the, at times, godawful audio cues, which tempted me several times over to mute the damn thing. I don’t often become easily annoyed, but here, Doughlings’ audio achieved that quite effortlessly, periodically, that is.
During play, a screen-long timer will gradually count up. Once this reaches its max, more Doughlings will appear on-screen, forcing players to clear the screen as quickly as possible before being flooded out. Throughout the course of the game, different forms of Doughlings will start being thrown at you. This includes sick Doughlings that will drip germs towards Dr Morpheous, killer Doughlings that will turn standard Doughlings into stone, and much more. The game does a great job at slowly introducing new features and twists, ensuring that any sense of repetition is kept a bay.
Further adding to the game’s replay value is the three-star rating that players can work to unlocking. Three stars can be found per-level but it’s not always possible to catch them all without losing a life in the process, injecting a risk-vs-reward sort of vibe. The same can be said about the score-card, which is increased through succession, but can be decreased if you take any damage from falling projectiles. That’s not to mention the level editor. This tool does exactly what you expect it to; giving players the means to create and share their very own Doughling levels.
Doughlings Arcade offers a lot of content across the board, which when grouped with its replay value and its neat extras, pushes the experience somewhere in the region of six or so hours worth of playtime. It helps, of course, that the game is colorful and vibrant from the get-go. It’s not visually striking by any means, but its lovable design sits well with the game’s concept. I’ll point out again that this is likely only going to appeal to a niche group of players, but if you, like me, crave a good brick breaking adventure, Doughlings Arcade will scratch that itch nicely.
Brick breaking games just aren’t as popular as they used to be. However, haunting audio design to the side, Doughlings effortlessly shows that a few new and interesting tricks can wildly freshen up a tired formula. The game remains compelling throughout the entirety of play by introducing new features at a decent pace across its broad content, ultimately ensuring that any sense of repetition is kept at bay.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.