I’m a sucker for a game that looks outright adorable and… well… I think that PHOGS! may be one of the cutest that I’ve ever seen. I mean, who WOULDN’T want to play as a ridiculously delightful conjoined-pup and head out on a wacky and colourful escapade to collect golden bones?! If that sentence alone isn’t enough to convince you that PHOGS! is a pretty special experience, I don’t think that you’ve got a soul…
PHOGS! is pretty simple in design, with the player leading their cute double-headed doggy on adventures across three puzzle-platforming filled lands as they look to collect those aforementioned golden bones, with controller inputs essentially split down the middle as you control both ends of your polycephalic body. If you’ve ever played games like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons before where you’ve got to control two characters on one controller, you should be able grasp the fundamentals of controlling PHOGS!’s canine protagonist pretty easily.
Are you completely new to the concept? You’ll be glad to hear that it’s straightforward for the most part, with both control sticks dictating movement and some simple button presses controlling your biting actions. It can be a little confusing early on, but it’s something most players should be able to pick up on quickly.
Still, controlling the two ends of your long snake-like double-headed doggy brings with it plenty of little difficulties as you look to coordinate your actions carefully and in synchronisation to get through every challenge in your path. Each head can perform actions at the same time (mostly consisting of biting things) and you can even stretch your body across an extended length as you use them both together, though there’s a limit in place so that you can’t exploit this too much when solving problems – it just means that you have to make sure that your positioning is on point in every trial that you face. The different obstacles you’ll find in your path can be interacted with in different ways too, so half of the battle is simply a case of figuring out what exactly it is that you need to do in order to move onwards to the next challenge.
There are some neat touches that make solving puzzles a lot easier though, such as the fact that each interactive object will highlight when you’re near it and make it clear which end of the doggy needs to grab it. It streamlines the experience a bit so that you have a basic idea of what you need to do in each puzzle, whilst it also gives younger players a bit of a helping hand too. PHOGS! will definitely appeal to a younger audience with its cutesy design after all, so it’s nice that it’ll never be too challenging for them to figure out what they need to do.
It helps that the puzzles themselves are always straight forward in design, with most isolated to smaller confined areas where it’s typically easy enough to figure out what exactly you need to do. What’s most impressive is the sheer variety of puzzles on offer, with your wacky capabilities utilised in a multitude of clever and creative ways throughout the adventure. Whether you’re swinging between moving obstacles, improvising a make-shift water hose, using your body to lead balls through a miniature wall-like obstacle course, moving platforms around to create a path, sneaking around stealthily like Solid (dog)Snake, or simply solving some logic-based conundrums, PHOGS! always has you doing something different to keep the whole experience feeling fresh. Add to that some optional objectives that are handed to you by the NPCs of the world as well as a few wacky yet fun mini-games and you’ll quickly find that PHOGS! offers PLENTY of entertainment for players across its adventure. Believe me, I can guarantee you’ll have a big smile on your face the whole time that you’re playing.
I haven’t even mentioned the best part yet: PHOGS! can be played in its entirety in co-op multiplayer, with two players able to work together and control a head of the dog each. Now I’ll admit, I thought this was going to be a bit of a nightmare at first and would lead to plenty of chaotic instances where both my partner and I were going to end up arguing over the simplest of tasks, but it works really well in-game and could actually be easier than playing solo. Sure, there’s a bit more of a reliance on communication and forging plans to progress, but when you get the ball rolling you’ll soon find that PHOGS! really is at its absolute best when enjoyed with someone else.
It’s got online co-op too, which is perfect given the circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment with the pandemic. Believe me, if you need something to bring some cheer to you and a friend’s lives, PHOGS! will be perfect.
I’ve got a whole lot of love for PHOGS! and it was an absolute joy to play through, though it did have some flaws. For one, the physics of the game could be a bit jumbly at times, especially when you’re trying to grab and move objects quickly. It could make some puzzles more difficulty to complete than they should be, especially when you’re trying to synchronise actions together smoothly. You’ll see what I mean when you come to the scissors…
It could also be argued that the game is a bit easy too, with no puzzle ever really leaving me stumped for too long. Of course, a lot of the challenge of the game is meant to come through its aspects of controlling both ends of the dog in synchronisation or utilising effective teamwork when playing in multiplayer, but it would have been nice if I had to think outside of the box a bit more too. On the flip-side, this was something that I actually appreciated when playing through the game with my younger niece, so it’ll be something that some players will actually approve of.
PHOGS! is a delightful and unique experience that’ll put a big smile on the faces of both younger and older gamers thanks to its quirky puzzling mechanics. I mean, who wouldn’t want to go on a big co-operative adventure with a double-headed doggy?!
With its accessible puzzling, its colourful world, and the variety of wacky tasks it offers, PHOGS! will certainly appeal to just about anyone who gives it a playthrough. Sure, the physics could be a bit fiddly here and there and it is guilty of being a little bit easy, but there’s no denying that it’s one of the most joyous and charming puzzle-platformers you can play on your consoles – ESPECIALLY in multiplayer…
Developer: Bit Loom Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC