Did you know that the best way to outrun a monster is by using farts? That’s the logic in Escape Doodland – the new platformer from flukyMachine and Qubic Games that has recently made its way to the Nintendo Switch. Sure, it sounds totally bizarre, but that’s the vibe that the game is going for and in fairness it finds a lot of success with it. The platforming itself just so happens to be decent too, though a tough difficulty can sometimes see the balance of enjoyment and frustration sway a little bit too much in the latter’s favour.
Escape Doodland puts you in the role of a monster who has one goal: to escape the huge beast that’s hunting him down. It’s a simple enough concept that’s joined by an even simpler setup, with the protagonist speeding through levels on their own in an endless-runner style. All you’ve got to do is jump, double-jump, dash, and use your farting abilities to get past all of the obstacles that come your way. It’s easy for just about anyone to pick up and play and it won’t take you long before your blasting farts out willy-nilly as you speed across each of the game’s tricky levels.
There’s a lot more to the game’s farting mechanics (why does that sound so wrong?) than just letting one rip though. You’ve got three different types of farts at your disposal, with the left d-pad button releasing a fart to stall the stalking beast that’s hunting you down, the top d-pad button giving you a jump that’s boosted higher with a fart, and the right d-pad button boosting you forward across the map with a swift but powerful fart. You’ll have to use each ability efficiently if you want to succeed in Escape Doodland, so you’ll want to work out the distances they’ll send you and the right times to use them quite swiftly.
You can’t just use your farting skills without a care in the world though and will actually have to find matches to ignite them. Fortunately, they’re littered across levels so they’re never hard to find, though actually grabbing them will often mean heading across a trickier route that’ll force you to tackle obstacles you’d have otherwise avoided. Admittedly, I never really found myself running low on matches, but there were certainly times where I’d have to take more risks than I’d like to keep my stock of them in check.
The platforming itself is easy enough to manage for the most part thanks to the game controls. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll take some getting used to (especially with the fast pace of the jumps you’ll have to pull off), but I found them responsive throughout and they were never at fault for any of my many deaths. The only frustrating element of the platforming was the fact that there could be a lot of trial and error involved, especially in the sections where you didn’t have a lot of time to see what was ahead of you. Add to that the fact that Escape Doodland is intentionally designed to be tough as nails and it could make for some moments that were more annoying than enjoyable.
Now I enjoy a challenge in a video game, especially in platformers, but Escape Doodland’s punishing difficulty felt a bit too over the top at times. There’s a real demand in place to master the controls and learn each level’s tough layout, but with the pressure of a monster on your tail at all times you’re often forced to react quickly which can lead to lots and lots of mistakes. With limited lives and only three checkpoints per level, this led to plenty of occasions where I’d have to start a level all over again – believe me, there’s nothing more disheartening than making your way through a tricky section only to have to do it all over again when you fail at the next. Levels aren’t short either, so struggling your way through only to fail near the end could be particularly painful. Whether it’s from falling to your death or getting caught by the monster, each failure in Escape Doodland felt more frustrating than anything and rarely made me feel like I wanted to give it ‘one more go’.
Perhaps I’m being a little harsh though because I did have some fun playing the game. When everything flowed well and I figured out a level’s layout I could breeze my way through happily, with the tension of holding off the approaching monster actually making for a good time. I actually enjoyed grabbing the collectibles of each level too, with each one giving you the chance to unlock additional characters and abilities. Sure, they could be tough to grab, but the reward for doing so was worthwhile. Escape Doodland is certainly not a bad game and there’ll be plenty of moments of satisfaction throughout – just be prepared to face frustrating moments that’ll make you want to turn off your Nintendo Switch along the way too.
One thing I simply have to mention is the game’s visual style, which never stopped being marvellous throughout. The doodled world is oozing with personality and the blend of environments come together nicely to make for a landscape that’s constantly changing up, whilst the characters themselves look like the kind of insane creatures you’d draw on the back of your schoolbook as a kid (that’s a good thing). There’s just so much personality to be found throughout the bizarre world and I was constantly impressed by the sights I saw. I mean, one level ends with a dog peeing over the whole environment – if that’s not enough to get you intrigued, I don’t know what will. Sure, you might have to a bit silly and childish to appreciate a lot of Escape Doodland’s weird creations, but they ticked all of the right boxes for me.
Escape Doodland’s combination of frantic platforming action and fart-blasting can make for a good time, though the incredibly tough difficulty and demand for total precision in each level could be a bit too frustrating at times. I’m typically pretty good at platformers and have a lot of patience at even the trickiest of games, but I lost count of the amount of times I wanted to stop playing out of sheer frustration – even if the game’s brilliantly bizarre world kept me wanting to witness what odd sights lay ahead of me.
If you’ve got a masochistic side and enjoy a perilous challenge then Escape Doodland might be for you, but those who want a platforming experience that’s a little more laid back might be better off trying one of the more accessible (and typically more enjoyable) titles in the Switch’s game catalogue.
Publisher: Qubic Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC