"Doggins is basically the video game equivalent of the deceptively simple bedtime stories we were read as children."
How do you value your experiences? Do you value them in terms of money and/or time? Is a movie that lasts 150 minutes more worth the $10 ticket price than a movie that only lasts 75 minutes? What if you find the 150 minute movie wholly boring and unengaging throughout its duration, yet the 75 minute movie is pure excellence? Which ticket was more deserving of your $10? These quandaries are why I find indie iOS adventure Doggins so difficult to review. It's a $3.99 iOS game that only lasts about an hour. It is a quietly experiential hour, though, that may hold more value than initially perceived.
Doggins is basically the video game equivalent of the deceptively simple bedtime stories we were read as children. Anyone who has ever attempted to write a children's book knows how difficult those stories are to create, yet Brain&Brain nailed it. The game stars an adorable terrier named Doggins who curls up in his bed for the night and begins to dream. He dreams that his house is a rocket to the moon, and once he lands on the moon, he encounters a nefarious monocled squirrel named Fitzwilliam. Fitzwilliam has a diabolical scheme to rewrite history and take over the world, and it is up to Doggins to craftily think his way through Fitzwilliam's devious obstacles and stop him. There is nothing preachy or particularly profound in this story. It's just the kind of story I enjoyed as a child. Its relaxed pace serves as a delightful contrast to today's overstimulating daytime lives.
I can picture a parent and child playing this game together and the parent asking the child about the obstacles that befall Doggins and how to solve them. Why won't the bouncer let Doggins into the party? What clue is in the sign? What does Doggins need to get past this obstacle? The simple interface using traditional point-and-click style item puzzles is intuitive, and the puzzles themselves stimulate brains without overtaxing them. The level of brain activity required is suitably relaxing for a pre-sleep cooldown.
The art evokes warmly nostalgic feelings of childhood. Simple shapes and appealing colors evoke plenty of emotion and look great. Creating imagery that appeals to the visceral senses of children (and our own inner children) is really difficult, but it's impossible to look at Doggins' use of shape, color, and space and not get that sense of calm and quiet so fleeting in this modern world. The sparse music and sound effects also add to that sense of calm and quiet.
Some people may view Doggins as a lovely piece of childlike art-gaming. Others may view Doggins as a pretentious piece of "hipster" art-gaming. I lean closer to the former sentiment. The game has a very cool sense of style and atmosphere, and I liked how it gave me a feeling of calm. With everything in our daily lives seeming to evoke alarming senses of urgency, those fleeting moments of quiet are lovely gifts indeed. But then I ask myself, is this feeling of tranquility worth $3.99? The game offers no replay value, unless you view it as a child's favorite book that you have to read till you're sick of it, but that your child never seems to tire of. So, really, how you as an individual value your experiences will determine what you get out of Doggins.