A double dog daring good time!
Listen, if the game is cute, I’m gonna play it. I don’t make the rules, I’m just here to play cute games. So obviously I played PHOGS!, an adorable platform puzzler where one or two players can play as two very good doggos (phoggos?) in their quest to find all the golden bones. Available on Stadia, Steam, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and even PS5/Xbox Series X | S through backwards compatibility, PHOGS! hearkens (barkens?) back to the platform puzzlers of yore which will certainly delight gamers of all ages.
In PHOGS!, players take on the role of Red and Blue, the goodest doggos there ever were, as they make their way through three different worlds — food, play, and sleep. Each world contains separate levels where Red and Blue must traverse the platforms from point A to point B, collecting as many golden bones as possible along the way. Completing a level will unlock the next one, a trend that continues up until the very end, wherein the true fight begins. Can you use your good doggo brains to cleverly complete each stage?
So, it’s pretty obvious how adorable those visuals are. Everything is absolutely bright and cheerful that it’s hard not to smile while playing PHOGS!. World of PHOGS! is so exuberant, exciting, and full of life that you can’t help but just dive right into gameplay, eager to see everything on offer. In that sense, I thought the developers did a fantastic job of capturing the essence of what it means to think like a dog, as they’re always raring to go, living life at full speed. Every nook, every cranny, and at every turn is some new and exciting eye candy to gobble up, a sugar high for the senses that pushes exploration forward.
As far as controls go, PHOGS! is wonderfully straightforward. One half of the controller makes Red move, while the other is for Blue. The three/six buttons you’ll wanna keep your fingers on are the thumbsticks, the shoulder buttons, and the trigger buttons. The thumbsticks move Red and Blue, the shoulders allow them to bark and bite (so they can hold onto things), and the trigger buttons cause them to stretch longer to get to things juuuust out of reach. Want to up the fun factor in PHOGS!? Bark. At. Everything. I’m still not sure what a phog is, but I definitely felt like one when I barked at literally everything that moved — myself included.
The levels themselves, while designed brilliantly, start off a bit on the easy side for the older gamers. PHOGS! is geared towards gamers of all ages, and while it’s certainly fun for anyone 18 months to 80 years, the first few hours are gonna skew towards the younger side. So if you’re just cruising through levels waiting for the going to get tough, please be patient with the game, as it’ll ramp up in terms of difficulty later on. For those still looking for a challenge even in the later levels, try hunting for all the golden bones; it’s easy enough to find the majority of them, but there will be one or two that even a bloodhound would have trouble sniffing out. Getting through the levels is something of a breeze, but mastering them will absolutely separate the pups from the grown ups.
Honestly, I don’t really have much to complain about with PHOGS!, as it has all the components needed for some great family-friendly fun. I will say, however, that I found the first couple hours a little bit of a repetitive slog to get through just because the levels weren’t challenging in the slightest. That did change as I progressed, so when I cautioned patience earlier, this is what I meant. It’s still a tremendously fun experience that will remind gamers of a certain age of games like Spyro and its kin, the explosiveness of the personality in PHOGS! really transporting players back to that time period in gaming. In the very least, it will absolutely brighten your day with its whimsical, almost preschool-like use of color and design.
After playing PHOGS!, I actually found myself in a better mood, the cheerful and delightful nature of dogs encapsulated in this gorgeous game an uplifting experience. It was the cozy, cute platform puzzler I was expecting and then some, surprising me towards the end with how it handled gameplay progression. If you even think for a split second that PHOGS! might be your bag of treats, don’t deprive yourself — I double dog dare you to pick up PHOGS! today and take these goodest doggos for walkies.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Switch, XBox One, PC, Stadia, PS4 (reviewed); Publisher: Coatsink; Developer: Bitloom; Players: 1-2; Released: December 3, 2020; MSRP: $24.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of PHOGS! provided by the publisher.