Review: Doodle God (Xbox Live)
When you have such a strong game as "Doodle Jump" that's recognised on the streets, to have another Xbox game called "Doodle God" risks association in the mind of the users. It's a strange call to make when naming a game, even though there is no exclusivity implied in the word. Doodle God has no jumping, no platform action, and only the very vaguest hints of a time limit. It's very much a cerebral puzzle game that you play over a long time, and it has a huge amount of goodwill online. I just can't see why.
Version Reviewed: 126.96.36.199
What I like about Doodle God is that it is just one long game. When you switch away and do something else with your Windows Phone, or even put the phone down to go out sledging in the snow, Doodle God will be there, waiting for you to return. You don't need to pause the game either, because it's not time limited. It's just a pity that fast-app switching hasn't been implemented, because coming back to the game requires a full reload and it takes forever. Given this is a post-Mango release, I expect better from an Xbox Live title.
Okay, so here's what you do. When you start a new game, you have an almost empty screen, with the four alchemical base elements of Fire, Air, Earth, and Water. By combining two of these through a drag and drop selection, you will get a new element - for example push together Fire and Earth, you get Lava. Earth and Water make a Swamp, unfortunately Lava and Swamp won't combine so you need to look for another combination. Your goal is to work these elements together to create all the elements available in the Doodle God world! With over 195 discoverable items, you have a lot to be getting on with.
And that's the game. It's a very simple concept, and the challenge is more a personal one to find everything, rather than any competitive element on display. That's not going to appeal to everyone, and there is another little problem with Doodle God. Once you gather a significant number of elements, you lose the mental ability to know what everything is and which group they are in (similar elements are held together, so in the Fire group you have the Fire element as well as Lava, and anything else incendiary that you manage to create). I reached this point after creating around 25 elements, and then started a simple trial and error process, taking one element and dragging it to every other one on the board to see what was created. Most of the time I found nothing, while others saw exciting new things made (like Knowledge).
That's grinding out a solution, not gaming and thinking up a solution. Doodle God is a fascinating concept, but the game play is pretty boring in a short amount of time. When rote trial and error feels to be the only way forward, you know the developers have forgotten the element of fun in the design stage - even if it is an element you can later create!
You do have a hints system on offer. You can tap the light bulb icon once every three minutes to get a touch of guidance. You might be presented with two groups of elements and told "some of these might react with each other", or given a specific element to try and make ("can you make Sand?"). These are a nice help along the way, but again I simply brute forced my way to Sand (Air plus Stone if you are wondering).
Mini-games and quests are also available, but are infuriatingly locked away as you start. The mini-games need you to make the element "Games" before you can play them, which is a shame, because their Bejewelled clone is quite nice and almost worth the admission price. Quests are also poorly explained, but you need to get the elements of the story described to win them. The first listed quest is "Reinvent all the wonderful things from the 20th Century"... so basically go and combine elements. Yes, I'm doing that, I wanted a break!
There's a lot I want to like about Doodle God. The UI is very smooth, even with all the elements you find in the game, the graphics are clear, and the sound effects and voice acting is top notch. It's just a shame that the core game is flawed, boring, and I burned out on the game in such a short space of time that I didn't feel I got any value for money.
Doodle God is popular, it's had a huge number of users on iOS and is a hugely popular Flash game online. It's just not for me and I can't feel the appeal. Try the demo, and if you're still interested by the end of it, I shall raise a glass to your gaming health and be happy for you.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at