Doughlings is back, and this time, it trades brick breaking for space invading, in a roundabout way, that is. When Doughlings: Arcade released, I praised its ability to bring back a classic concept whilst implementing new and interesting mechanics, and Doughlings: Invasion is no different. This is everything a sequel of this type should be; something familiar, something somewhat different, and something that’s just as fun as its predecessor. If you’ve found any enjoyment in the series so far, you’ll (so long as you enjoy arcade shooters) absolutely love this.
The game’s story is structured in a way that falls inline with the previous outing. Whilst far from gripping, it really doesn’t need to be anything else. The plot picks up where it left off, in which things have calmed down since Dr Morpheous saved the his fellow Doughlings from the affects of a poisonous meteorite. Some short time later, Dr Morpheous investigates the now defunct space rock, only to find that a mysterious device sits within its framework. The device turns out to be a WMD, and soon after, the skies begin to fill with hordes of nefarious alien invaders.
With most of the Doughlings still in recovery, Dr Morpheous arms himself to the teeth and sets off to defend everything he holds close. Like I said, the story isn’t going to be winning any awards, but it gets the job done nonetheless. Mercifully, the game retains the accessibility of its predecessor. Booting up the game takes you to a clean and concise menu. Here, you can tweak a few settings, browse some leaderboards, or of course, dive right on in to the adventure at hand. There’s a range of difficulties available, but you’ll need to unlock tougher variants.
The crux of play is relatively straightforward. Those of you that have played Space Invaders will know what to expect, give or take the interesting additions that are present in Doughlings: Invasion. Players control Dr Morpheous, who is situated to the lower of the screen. You’ll use the left thumbstick to move both left and right, fire with the X button, perform a show-off move with the Y button, and aim your gun (only as the Gunslinger) with the A button. The game keeps things fairly simple to digest for the most part, leaving the game wide open for all age brackets.
When starting a new game, you’ll find a sizable world map to work through. The world map is broken into several sections, with each section compiled of a collection of levels, and then a boss encounter. Once you’ve beaten a world section, you’ll move onto the next section, and then rinse and repeat until you hit the end game. The kicker, however, is that progress carries over from one section to the next, meaning that if you reach section three with only one life, you’ll always resume that world with one life unless you start from scratch and do it all again.
It’s a welcoming design choice in my opinion, and one that encourages you to play carefully and skillfully from the get-go. I’ll point out, the game is rather generous when it comes to acquiring more lives, but not overly so. We’ll touch up on that in more detail in a moment. The game plays out as you would expect. You’ll control Dr Morpheous using the above commands, and will need to clear the screen of invaders and items in order to move to the next level. Level transitioning is seamless, meaning you’ll see few loading screens between the areas within.
Dr Morpheous, in his base form, can only shoot in a straight line upwards. The same applies to the majority of the game’s invaders, only they shoot downwards. The invaders take up most of the upper screen, and slowly move towards one edge of the screen and then back to the other, before dropping closer to Dr Morpheous. You’ll need to clear the screen of invaders before they reach you, blasting them to pieces one alien freak at a time. Invaders spawn in all shapes, sizes, and colors, with colors signifying how many shots it will take before an alien bites the dust.
Blue invaders need only one shot before they die, whereas green invaders need two shots; changing from green to blue after hit with the first shot. Naturally, it pays off to learn the color schemes here, as it helps to know how many color phases an enemy is from death. Outside of color changes, each type of invader sports a unique mechanic of some sort. You’ll find types that shoot downward, types that dart to the bottom of the screen and explode once shot, types that encase nearby allies in protective fields, right through to types that shoot diagonally.
Much like in the predecessor, defeated foes will drop a thumbs-up item that you can collect from the foot of the screen. For each one you collect, a spotlight to the uppermost edge of the screen will light up. Once you’ve lit the required amount of spotlights, you’ll be free to perform a show-off move. There’s a range of different show-off moves to utilize, all of which are as interesting and as helpful as one another. Dr Morpheous’ base show-off allows you to shoot an invader, and should it be the same color as surrounding invaders, they’ll all take damage.
This can be massively helpful when it comes to screen clearing, and due to the fact that you get multiple shots, you can turn the tides of a battle at the drop of a hat. On select levels, you’ll see items that are stuffed in with the crowds of aliens; mostly DNA strands and extra lives. You’ll simply shoot these items to claim your rewards. When it come to extra lives, you’ll want to horde as many as you can. Doughlings: Invaders isn’t massively difficult, but its one-hit death functionality can lead to dark places if you don’t watch your life count. That much is true.
The DNA strands, on the other hand, allow you to alter Dr Morpheous’ personas. There’s a range of different personas to take on, most of which are slowly introduced as you reach new sections of the game’s world. Once you collect a strand of DNA, you’ll instantly transform into its pre-set persona for a short amount of time. When you do change form, you’ll be granted access to new types of attacks and new show-off moves. This alone helps to keep the game feeling fresh throughout, which, taking its repetitive concept into account, is high praise indeed.
Zap, for instance, looks akin got X-Men’s Cyclops, and uses an eye beam rather than a gun. The difference here is that the beam, unlike Dr Morpheous’ gun, will penetrate an entire column of aliens. Or, there’s the previously alluded to Gunslinger. When playing as the Gunslinger persona, you’re able to shoot upward diagonal left, and upward diagonal right, giving you some more flexibility when it comes to attacks. Each persona’s show-off move is typically fashioned on their standard moves, but they can indeed all be upgraded should you collect enough formula.
Formula can obtained throughout each level by shooting the queen aliens that (much like UFOs in Space Invaders) glide from left to right at the top of the screen, periodically. Once you beat a level, you’re free to spend said formula on upgrades, allowing you to buff up and improve the traits of each persona, as well as indeed Dr Morpheous’ traits. Once you’ve worked through all levels in a section, you’ll meet the section’s boss. These boss encounters can be pretty brutal, even on normal difficulty, each sporting a range of unique attack and movement patterns.
The first boss, for example, has you dodging his two Thor-like hammers. This boss will try to trap you between said hammers, before pounding down with his entire body to take you out. The second boss sees you taking on a set of twin aliens, both of which drop landmines and fire shotgun-esque projectiles at you, forcing you to act more swiftly on your feet. When all is said and done, you cant knock the game for its diversity. Doughlings: Invaders is a wonderful game that builds on the success of its predecessor well, whilst paying homage to a loved classic.
The game does a good job at keeping you on your toes through the constant introduction of new foes, new powers, new abilities, and new area bosses. The only gripe I have is that the game’s soundtrack, much like in Doughlings: Arcade, gets freaking annoying before long. That drawback is not enough to hold it back from greatness, mind, but something I wanted to make a note of nonetheless. The audio cues aren’t at all bad though, they’re sharp and relevant for the most part. The visuals, however, they’re as colorful, as vibrant, and as cutesy as ever before.
Not only does this design approach allow for it to appeal to a wider audience, but it retains what made the first outing so welcoming. Everything from the game’s levels, right through to its character design, is top-notch. I’m excited to see where the developer takes the series next, and I truly hope they do well with Doughlings: Invasion, because for as basic as it may seem on paper, it’s a lot deeper, a lot more engaging, and a lot more challenging than you would think. If you enjoyed Doughlings: Arcade, this is an absolute must-have. Seriously, pick this one up.
Doughlings: Invasion shows what a talented developer can achieve with the right mindset and tools. Not only does this game bring back a much loved classic, but like Doughlings: Arcade, it revitalizes the dated concept through the use of implementing fresh mechanics, heaps of variation, and a solid all-round pace. Sure, the audio is still very hit and miss, but in the midst of how fun the game is, this is easy to forgive.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.