Review: Diggin’ Dogs (iOS)

Diggin’ Dogs
Publisher: Chillingo
Developer: Chillingo
Genre: Puzzle
Release Date: 02/09/2012

I’ll admit I’m a huge dog person, so anything with dogs in it tends to catch my attention. Such was the case with Diggin’ Dogs and in spite of the cutesy and somewhat corny name, there seemed to be a actual fun puzzle game amid the little pups. Let’s see if that impressions proved correct.

The basic premise of the game as depicted in the opening some pirate dog treasure (represented by golden boots) were scattered far and wide and the canine trio is retrieving them. It doesn’t get deeper than that, but a game like this it doesn’t really need a long sprawling narrative. There are a total of 60 levels spread across 5 worlds: forest, snow, junkyard, jungle, and volcano. There’s no other modes to speak of, which makes the game feel a bit barebones, but just going through the levels will at least last you a while.

The graphics are cutesy and colorful. The backgrounds fit the theme of each world, but for the most part they’re variations of each other with different layouts and enemy and obstacle placements. The dogs themselves are adorable and have characteristics of actual breeds. When the dogs move they look like paper cutouts. The music sounds fine, and each world has its own theme. There’s periodic and near constant panting and whimpering, which can be endearing to dog lovers’ ears but can also can grate after a while for some. Each dog has a different bark as well, which was a mildly interesting touch.

The controls use both the touchscreen and accelerometer and are fairly simple. The main thing you do is swiping over dirt to clear a path for the dogs to pass through. The only direct control you have over the dogs is swiping up on a dog to make that dog jump. The accelerometer also sees use as a way to move the dogs or pan the camera to one side when you tilt the iPhone (or Touch, if you’re playing on that). You can’t move the camera manually, which can slightly obfuscate attempts to look ahead to see what enemies and obstacles lie ahead. The tilt controls aren’t as finicky as one might expect, though it can take some tilting to get objects and the dogs where you want them to be.

The object of every level is to guide the dogs underground down to where a golden boot awaits. Along the way are enemies and hazards like poisonous mushrooms and toxic gas, and one touch will take out a dog for the rest of that level. There are also traps, which you can also use to get rid of enemies if you position them right. In addition, some levels have skulls that you can tap for various effects depending on the symbol on it, like reversing gravity on everything except the dogs, adding dirt wherever you swipe, or changing things into something else, such as mushrooms into coins. Once you’ve proceeded far down enough, you can’t backtrack, which makes bones and coins missable. You can redo levels as much as you like, which makes that less of a pain.

In some levels, there are different helmets that provides some way to deal with those obstacles, like a magnet helmet that draws coins, a mushroom shaped one that shoots mushrooms, and a gas mask that allows the one wearing it to pass through gas unharmed. Only one dog can wear them, and in levels where there’s not enough helmets to go around, which can lead to Lost Vikings moments where you send the dog with the needed helmet ahead to deal with the corresponding obstacle to clear a path for the other dogs. Unlike Lost Vikings, however, more than one dog can have the same helmet, and if one is deposed, the helmet is left behind for another dog to wear if it’s not already wearing one.

Every level has three bones to find, and in order to access the next world, you need to gather enough bones. You can also buy a golden bone for $.99 as an in-app purchase to unlock all of them at once. However, it’s still possible to unlock the next world even if you don’t find every bone in the ones you have access to, so this seems a little pointless unless you’re really impatient or really stuck on a level and can’t scourge up enough bones. Still, the option’s there for those who want to use it.

After you complete a level, you can earn a medal depending on how many dogs made it to the end and the amount of coins you collected. You can still finish a level with two of the dogs out of action and without collecting bones and coins, but you won’t get a medal for that level. You can go back and unlock achievements, pick up any bones you missed, and try to earn gold medals on every level. Doing all that gives this game some longetivity and serves as a fun way to kill time if you’re out and about and stuck waiting somewhere, or even just as something to do in short bursts. After that, though, there doesn’t seem to be any plans for any more levels, which is sort of a shame, but 60 levels is still a lot to go through.

The game itself is easy to get the hang of, and it introduces new mechanics gradually so as to let you familiarize yourself with them. However, some levels actually do get a bit tricky and
the way they implement said mechanics, and just getting through the level without worrying about medals or bones can take some doing. Even when I failed a level, I was usually able to figure out what to do to avoid that same result and want to go back and get through that level while also trying to grab every bone and as many coins as possible.

Diggin’ Dogs has drawn some comparisons to Disney’s Where’s My Water?, and on some level I can see where those come from. You swipe to dig through dirt to direct something you can’t directly control to a goal. You collect items (ducks in Where’s My Water?, bones in this game) to unlock more levels. However, that’s where the similarities end. I actually gave Where’s My Water? a whirl for comparison’s sake, and both are fun little puzzle games that do share some similarities, but are different enough from each other that it doesn’t feel like one ripped off the other. Nonetheless, it’s only $.99, it can be played in short or longer bursts as the mood strikes, and while it’s simple in concept it still manages to be engaging.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Decent
Graphics: Above Average
Sound: Decent
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Decent
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Enjoyable
Miscellaneous: Above Average

Short Attention Span Summary
Diggin’ Dogs is a cute puzzle game that’s good for helping to pass the time. The tilt controls work better than expected, though they’re not perfect. There’s no word of there being any more levels beyond the current ones, but what’s here is enjoyable and worth the $.99.



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