Doodle Kingdom is the newest entry in the Doodle series of games by JoyBits.
The major mechanic of the game is simple: smash two things together and hope they make a new thing. Smash the new thing together with another thing. Repeat until you’ve gotten all the combinations the developers created reactions for. It’s basically a point-and-click adventure without the adventure part. Just the pointing. And clicking. And the frustration that comes with your brain working differently from the brain of the person who developed the game. Even so, I found myself entirely charmed by it.
Doodle Kingdom has three different (. . . -ish, I’ll get to that in a minute) game modes. The first, and largest, part of the game is called Genesis. This is where you do most of your thing-smashing, similar to the other Doodle games, only this time with an emphasis on a fantasy world. The combinations start out being pretty intuitive--put together life and a forest and you get elves. There are certainly some intuitive combinations later in the game, as well. What happens if you give an elf a bow? She becomes a ranger. That’s just basic Fantasy Story 101.
But it starts to get frustrating the more things you’ve created. There isn’t a set logic to how different things combine, so it’s difficult to predict whether two things will have a reaction. You might think it’s common sense that thunder plus lightning equals storm, but the game doesn’t account for that possibility. Likewise, it’s hard to figure out what things the game wants you to create, which makes it harder to decide what to smash. I did not expect to find a Cthulu-esque creature in a fantasy-themed game, so I never even considered the possibility that I would want to find a combination to create one. There comes a point where you’re either randomly smashing things together in the hope that they’ll create something new, or you start matching things systematically so you can try every possible combination of things.
Thankfully, there are hints.
They range from just straight-up combining two things for you to only telling you that a particular end product can be made from two things already available. However, the hints have a recharge time, so the last part of the game can take a while if you don’t feel like being methodical in making your matches.
While you’re waiting, you can explore the other modes in Doodle Kingdom. Quests offer three smaller scenarios to play where you thing-smash through a very lightly plotted narrative. (So lightly plotted that I hesitate to call it a storyline.) The pool of things in these scenarios is smaller, so it’s a lot easier to figure out what to do. The plot also gives you a little more direction about what you’re trying to accomplish. But it feels more like a few mini-games tacked on than a fully fleshed-out game mode.
My Hero mode is a combat runner; you can upgrade your character’s equipment, manually refill energy and life, and play a couple of timing-based mini-games to defeat bosses, but there’s not much interaction beyond that. It feels pretty unrelated to the rest of the game. I might check in from time to time to see how my dude is doing, but I mainly spent time playing this mode while I was waiting for my hints to recharge in the main game.
In spite of its flaws, I do like Doodle Kingdom.
The art style is fun, and the music is very appropriate for the fantasy setting. I was less enthused about the frequent interjections of several unknown gentlemen admonishing me for choosing the wrong combinations, but you can thankfully turn them off on the options screen. The game has a lot of wit to it. For all of the unintuitive combinations, there were very few that I felt confused by once I made the match. More often, I would have an a-ha! moment; while my brain didn’t think to put a cart and a house together to make a siege tower, it makes a goofy amount of sense in hindsight. The combinations are often clever, and the real treat of the game is discovering what they are, even if you have to use hints to do it.
Doode Kingdom is definitely not a game for everyone. If you’re looking for action or complex, brain-teasing puzzles, this is not for you. If you want a casual diversion, though, you might want to check it out. For me, it was a perfect game to play on a Sunday afternoon with a baseball game on in the background.