Doodle God (PC) Review
-Low spec requirements
-Obtuse puzzle and game design
-An all around numbing experience
An Alleged Puzzler Willing to Charge While Barely Feeling Like a Game
Doodle God isn’t fun. It isn’t clever, engaging, or even a good time-killer. Its mix-and-match gameplay utilizes a drag-and-drop method that at first feels like problem-solving but quickly devolves into guessing thanks to intensely counterintuitive puzzle design. The mechanics and content are so vapid, it honestly took me a few minutes of clicking through every menu in disbelief before I realized there wasn’t more to the game than its mix-and-match menus. Even worse, Doodle God’s developers embrace its horrid design by charging ninety-nine-cents for often needed hints and what should be basic game-options. It all boils down to an experience less engaging than a screensaver.
In “Main Game,” you play as a god creating and cluttering up the Earth with stuff. To start, players are given four elements – fire, water, earth, and air – which they must combine to create more so-called “elements.” Successfully matching up elements creates new ones, slowly building toward the primary goal of collecting 249 of them. The total count helps divide the main game into four sections that are unlocked by reaching caps; “Beginning” encompasses the first hundred elements, “Technology” the next forty, “Modern Age” up to two-hundred, and “World of Magic” the final forty-nine. As you progress, a cartoony depiction of Earth, initially barren, gets populated with various amounts of stuff. And by “stuff,” I mean objects as arbitrary as “CD,” “cigarette,” “demigod,” “thunderbird,” “coffee,” and, my favorite, “poison weapon.” Essentials, right? And there’s no realistically applicable logic to successfully discover elements; nor is there a formula for navigating the game. Really, the Doodle process is best compared to a game of “what am I thinking” or an esoteric, trans-dimensional rendition of square-peg-into-square-hole: “the tetracontakaipentagon-peg fits into the triangle-hole sometimes if you angle it right.” most of my time was spent bashing random elements against each other until something finally happened.
Early on, I drag-and-dropped elements like “water” and “earth” together to create “swamp” – simple, sort of eccentric, but could make sense; “energy” and “fire” to make “plasma,” and suddenly – out of the absolute abyss – “swamp” and “plasma” to create “life.” Swamp + Plasma = Life. I had to double-take. Before I knew it, I was combining “beast” with “life” to create “human,” “human” with “fire” to make “corpse,” “corpse” with “life” to make “zombie,” and finally “zombie” with “zombie” to make “ghoul.” “Ghoul?” Astonishing. And the game didn’t bat an eyelid; not a single quip to go with its eccentric “elements.” Soon I was mixing “radiowave” with “fire” to make “laser,” “Philosopher’s Stone” with “water” to make “beer,” “tree” with “human” to get “treant;” I even created “werewolves” before I created “tools.” It was ridiculous, humorless, and didn’t even pretend to involve any degree of skill.
I’d like to emphasize that Doodle logic isn’t something you can really learn. This is primarily due to the fact that the game doesn’t tell you which elements you can possibly create. Sure, objectives pop up from time to time to reveal elements you have yet to acquire – “create turtles,” for instance; however, a list of to-dos could’ve helped Doodle God feel more like an actual game. In its current and probably final state, it feels more like an interactive screen than a video game, i.e. picture if Minecraft were only its crafting system.
A “Hints” menu presents a touch of direction in three different forms: one hint reveals an element that can be created from existing elements, one places two elemental banks containing undiscovered complementary components side by side, and one automatically performs a combination for you. The three types of hint recharge in real-time countdowns of two-minutes, ten-minutes, and one hour; but, if players get anxious, there’s the option to purchase hints directly from an in-game store. That’s right: the one factor that could’ve possibly brought the game some sense is fed to players through their wallets.
When discovering an element for the first time, the game segues into a simple animation accompanied by a shiny jingle. Well, from time to time, I’d recreate previously discovered elements yet the game would play its “new element” animation anyway. Obviously, the game didn’t record it as any progress but still cared enough to make me sit through the unnecessary animation. Once I started managing 50+ elements, I found myself repeating combinations quite often, at least once every five minutes. By the end of my playthrough, I’d watched a lot of these animations several times over. Kind of annoying but a factor I could’ve overlooked had gameplay been the slightest bit enjoyable. Well, based on the micro-transaction menu, it seems developers were well aware of this irksome tidbit as they included a $0.99 USD option to “disable reactions that have already been discovered.” Yes, this welcome, player-friendly option you’d normally find in a game-options menu is behind a paywall. So unless you want to cough up an extra buck, you have to endure the unnecessary irritation. As far as I’m concerned, this translates to developers acknowledging the flaw in the experience and deciding to bank on it rather than actually improve it. Absolutely tasteless.
To be fair, “Quest” and “Puzzle” modes outright tell players what item they must create. The first puzzle-objective is to create “Easter-egg.” To start, players are given “bunny,” “grass,” “bird,” “egg,” and a few more seemingly unrelated items. Randomly mashing elements together proved a competent strategy, turning up new elements until I finally utilized “nest” and “bunny” to make said “Easter egg.” While the mode at least presented a clear objective, it was still nonsensical and not enough to make gameplay fun.
Doodle God at least works. Most of it is made-up of colorful 2D drawings that look about as good as any cartoony, micro-transaction-ridden iOS title and don’t demand high specs. The voice acting on the god character is cartoony, decently done, and can luckily be silenced through a limited options menu. In game, element menus are quick to navigate and don’t require any loading times. And, while I refused to use it, I’d be surprised if the micro-transactions system didn’t work.
There isn’t much left to be said for Doodle God. It’s frustratingly dull and less challenging than a Fisher Price See ‘N Say. Really, I couldn’t find a single redeeming value. Not one. If the mindless puzzle design, obscene micro-transactions, and banal gameplay aren’t enough to keep you away…well, suit yourself.