Escape Doodland (Switch) - Indie Spotlight
Escape Doodland is a fast-paced action platformer with only two modes, hard and harder. The platforming is all auto-scrolling similar to Bit.Trip Runner or similar stages Rayman Legends where colliding with the left side of the screen results in death. Timing jumps to land on the next platform or avoiding obstacles is key. The unique art style and creatures look like doodles from an amateur or child's imagination. Escape Doodland was is an indie game funded on Kickstarter back in April of this year. The game is developed by flunkyMachine and published by PlayWay.
The adorable residents of Doodland are being chased out of their home by a red monster that is trying to eat them. The game gets genuinely tense as you near the left of the screen and the monster opens its mouth wider to eat you whole. Unlike other games that use an encroaching wall of fire or an enemy that instantly kills you if you touch it, escaping the jaws of the monster when it's about to bite down had me on the edge of my seat.
While it seems daunting not having an easier difficulty, the game introduces abilities from the get-go that allows players to make mistakes and has a great checkpoint feature that feels fair while still being challenging. Other than the basic jump and double jump, you will also be able to use your special fart abilities to either jump higher, boost forward, or stun the red monster for a few seconds allowing you to get ahead. After collecting enough matches, that you consume for these abilities, and upgrading them, you'll have an easier time surviving. Even with the upgrades the game still manages to be quite a bit challenging, especially if you are going for the collectibles in each level. Some enemies, hazards, and falling will kill you instantly, while others just slow you down allowing you to recover.
The harder mode, unlocked after beating a level, is the same but the only change is that there are no checkpoints. On hard difficulty, once you reach a checkpoint, you are given two extra lives to restart at the checkpoint instead of the beginning of the level. I found playing the hard difficulty while collecting all optional green beans to be even harder than the harder mode. Hunting down the green beans revealed hidden paths and precision that had me playing each level over and over. Collecting green beans and golden beans allow you to unlock power-ups for your abilities and characters in the in-game shop. Similar to Rayman Origins and Legends, the characters are only cosmetic but seeing the run animation and panicked faces of the residents of Doodland was worth it.
The game manages to be lenient and easy to learn for new players while still being challenging for those, like me, who love brutally hard games. Not having a finite amount of green beans, allows struggling player to replay an easier level a couple of more times to gain enough to purchase a power-up they may need to get past the levels that get progressively more difficult. Similar to challenging games I enjoyed this year, like the new God of War or Guacamelee 2, I found myself playing the same level over and over getting a little further each time. Then after completing the level, I felt the sense of gratification for taking on a challenge and overcoming it.
I loved the art style of the game, and would often die because my attention would be on the background looking at the kooky and sometimes grotesque creatures that make up Doodland. The music is another highlight of the game. The upbeat, lighthearted, and kazoo filled soundtrack never got dull, even after replaying the same section over and over in quick succession.
With 10 distinct levels, I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing this game and would love to see a sequel or another game from this developer. While the game can be completed in about 2-3 hours on your first playthrough, those looking to complete the harder difficulty and collect all collectibles can easily double or triple that time.
I hope you all enjoyed this indie spotlight. For those interested in a complete walkthrough and how to find all green beans in each level, take a look at the video I created below.