Poor Morpheous. As soon as one threat is neutralised, another invasion is well underway. Following on directly from the Breakout inspired Doughlings Arcade, the second game in the series pays tribute to the arcade classic Space Invaders. You play as the heroic shapeshifting doughling Morpheous, who steps up once again to defend his people against a somewhat familiar threat…
In Doughlings: Invasion, as you might have figured out, your aim is to stop the alien invaders reaching ground level. They move side to side in the classical fashion, and will start to speed up as you pick them off. The last remaining nasty will make a last ditch dash to make landfall, keeping you on your toes. As in the good old days, the basic gameplay is nice and straightforward.
Doughlings: Invasion has more to offer than a mere repackage of retro arcade action however. As you vanquish the aliens, they will drop “likes”, which switch on the spotlights in the corner of your screen. Enemies will only drop likes when they have been defeated, however there are numerous different types of enemy which range in strength. This strength is usually denoted by colour, which you will familiarise with as you get used to the gameplay. Your bullets will cut through some enemy shots depending on their strength and yours.
When you collect ten likes, your “show off” ability will be primed and ready to use. For Morpheous, this is called “Colorgun” which will damage all enemies of the same colour within a certain area. Whilst your show off ability is active you’ll stop earning likes, meaning you’ll need to time your use of it carefully.
The game’s main and only mode, story mode, consists of five levels made up of ten enemy waves which culminates in a boss battle. There are also online and local leaderboards to please those with a competitive edge. You’ll have to play through on the “Normal” difficulty first time round to unlock the harder options.
Points play an important part in the game, and queen aliens will fly across the top of the screen providing an opportunity to boost your score. Also, as you shoot enemies you’ll rack up combo points, but if you miss a single shot you’ll lose your streak so accuracy is key when tackling the leaderboards. The more points you earn, the quicker you’ll be able to upgrade your DNA, to make you more powerful. This will typically upgrade your show off ability, but will also occasionally buff other traits too.
You have lives in Doughlings: Invasion, and some waves will contain an imprisoned Doughling that if freed, will grant you an extra one. You’ll have to be careful as one single hit will take a life from you, and you’ll have to start the level from the start. Thankfully, if you reach the boss and die you won’t have to face all the waves again, your progress will be saved just before the big battle. The Boss battles are fun and a little more challenging. They all have a fairly substantial health bar, and will test your reflexes just as much as the alien waves do.
Morpheous hasn’t earned his name for nothing, once you clear the first level, you’ll notice little DNA strands appearing amongst the alien waves. Once you shoot these down and collect them, you’ll be able to morph into a different character for a short period of time. Each different form carries its own abilities as well as their own special show off ability. These can also be upgraded in the same way as Morpheous’ can. This starts to add some pleasing variety to the action and allows for tactical decisions to survive the increasingly intense enemy waves. For example, if you turn as many enemies the same colour as possible and then use “Colorgun”, the effects can be devastating. You’ll also be grateful for the small wooden platforms that you can hide under when things get hectic. Be careful though, as they won’t last for long.
Doughlings: Invasion looks great, and is presented in a colourful cartoon style which matches the humorous tone of the game. The opening cut-scene plays out as an interactive comic book and instantly raises a smile as Morpheous prepares for battle. The funky, upbeat soundtrack is the cherry on top really.
The difficulty curve in the game isn’t too steep, but that’s not to say things don’t get challenging, because they do. This is a good thing, and as you learn Morpheus’s abilities you’ll be able to plan a winning strategy. The only potential downside is that some players may switch off after a short while, as it’s unlikely gamers not interested in the retro scene will remain interested for long.
Doughlings: Invasion on Nintendo Switch is a self proclaimed tribute to the classic arcade shooter genre. However, instead of falling into the trap of becoming a pale imitation, it brings its own style of upbeat and surprisingly deep gameplay. It’s fairly short, and linear, but for £8.99 there’s enough game for your money. If it’s your thing, give it your best shot.
Release date: August 2019
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Review)
Massive thanks to: Hero Concept