After catching a glimpse of the newest trailer for upcoming PC and mobile game Burly Men At Sea(which you can watch here), I reached out to husband and wife developer Brain&Brain to enquire about their game. Since Burly Men At Sea won’t be out until the end of the year, they kindly provided me a copy of the previous award-winning project Doggins that is available on iOS and Android. In order to see where this small developer cut their teeth and to see what Burly Men At Sea has in store for us, I took Doggins for a stroll.
The inspiration for Doggins is the Condolora couple’s terrier and the game’s premise is based upon where they believe the titular canine’s dreams take him whilst he’s asleep. The game opens with a short clip of Doggins nestling into his dog basket as his suburban home rockets into the sky and gracefully lands on the moon. Here he is greeted by a monocle squirrel named Fitzwilliam who we soon find out is the game’s antagonist; the leader of a bunch of activist squirrels hellbent on eradicating mankind. Yes, you read that right. The developer hasn’t held back on their imagination and the results are better for it.
The gameplay is iterative of the point and click formula with inventory-based puzzles and item combination. Tapping the screen will cause you to pick up an item and swiping left from the right side of the screen reveals your inventory where you can drag and drop items onto one another to combine them. The touchscreen is used in inventive ways such as dragging a parachute from a tree by swiping down on the screen or swiping laterally in order to slide open drawers on a dresser. Using the touchscreen to manipulate items is not overtly clear in the beginning but once you are aware of this integrated mechanic, you’ll have no issue in recognising when you are required to use it in order to progress.
Whilst some of the themes in the game are wonderfully abstract and fantastical, the puzzles themselves are mostly straightforward and won’t have Doggins scratching his noggin for too long. In the absence of dialogue and written instruction, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the puzzles could be overwhelmingly perplexing but it is quite the opposite; they find a nice balance and are satisfyingly cryptic whilst still retaining logic; a testament to the game’s design and the developer’s ability to convey all necessary information with very limited assets.
This ability to convey so much with so little also extends to the game’s art style, which I personally believe to be Doggins’ strongest asset. Inspired by Scandinavian illustration, the minimalistic art style oozes with so much charm and even provides the gameplay with an almost dream-like quality and appearance. The animation is equally brilliant with subtle movements of characters conveying their personality such as an inquisitive sniff by Doggins to the skittish movement of the mischievous squirrels. The animation and art, as well as the unexpected dose of witty humour that’ll have you chuckling out loud all combine to make Doggins an enjoyable experience.
For some, experience may be the word of choice when describing Doggins. I know I’m not the only one to offer this criticism but Doggins is incredibly short and limited in terms of gameplay. You can finish Doggins within thirty minutes and the story doesn’t alter on subsequent playthroughs, therefore eliminating any replay value. Just when it feels like Doggins is coming into its own that’s when it ends abruptly; like having an alarm clock wake you up at the crux of a good dream. Although the length of a game is never an indication of its quality, it’s certainly something to consider before committing to a purchase. That being said, the half an hour I spent in Doggins’ surrealist and playful world was undoubtedly joyous. The art, wit, charm and imagination of Doggins won’t be forgotten in a hurry. If this is a taste of things to come, Burly Men At Sea is a game I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on.
Many thanks to Brain&Brain for providing Indie Marathon with an iOS copy of Doggins for review!
- Art Style
- Extremely Short
- No Replay Value