Ever found yourself doodling while in school or at the office? What if I told you those squiggly lines had an entire world to themselves? Once peaceful and prosperous places, their cities are now threatened by a monster only known as Omnomus. For the cute little creatures, running is the last hope for survival.
I know what you’re thinking. With a title like that, you’ll wonder who let me near a keyboard while on drugs! The idea isn’t mine, though. In fact, those few lines above are the premise to Escape Doodland, a 2.5-D platformer by Polish duo Appside Down. The game won’t be out before Q1 2018, but the guys were kind enough to distribute a few demo copies. The least we could do in return was telling them what we think of it!
Colors, Fire, Thunder, and Teeth!
The first time I saw this title I was at a train station, coming back from a conference. “Hmm, that looks trippy!” was my immediate reaction to its reveal trailer. The peculiar art style and the bright colors drove it home, gaining Escape Doodland a slice of my attention and a place on my watchlist.
The choice to base the action in a hand-drawn world is fresh enough to appear extremely compelling. Weronika also struck gold when she decided to fill only some parts of the scenein. In contrast, different shades of white and gray were saved for the backgrounds.
Said choices all help to highlight the idea behind doodles: random drawings that are often left unfinished. Furthermore, only coloring certain parts of the levelssilently directs players’ attention towards them. In a game where running away is your main objective, such things are always greatly appreciated.
The results are indeed trippy, but trippy in a good way. You’re supposed to be visiting a wacky environment that someone scribbled on a piece of paper while dying of boredom at work. Both the characters and their surroundings reflect just that. There’s even a touch of the puerile – that inner child within all of us – which shows itself as the characters ignite their farts for a boost in speed.
Despite all of this carefully designed eye-candy, I did find myself struggling with some of the scenery at times. Especially when going through ominous clouds against darker skies, understanding which platform I should jump to next wasn’t always immediate. It may just boil down to the way my monitors are set, but the devs should keep these differences into account!
Some Tweaking Required!
In its current state, Escape Doodland is indubitably a promising product. With more than five months left before its appointed release period, the game already looks polished and feels extremely fun to play. The levels are challenging, but not obnoxiously hard to complete. Still, there are a few things that both Piotrek and Weronica may want to consider.
I understand the choice to go with an endless runner. If I were being chased by a huge pink monster with teeth as sharp as knives, I’m pretty sure I’d try my best at legging it too! Yet giving players a touch more control over their characters’ movement could really improve playability! Specifically: when free falling, I would have loved to be able to shift my weight so as to decide where I landed.
Similarly, characters would sometimes get stuck on ledges or obstacles. This will probably be fixed before the game is shipped to Steam, but still radically influenced the overall experience. Considering how heavily Escape Doodland relies on its smoothness to carry the message across, solving these problems should be one of Appside Down’s main concerns.
So What Should We Expect?
Can’t make up your mind? Understandable! The future of any indie game is uncertain up to the moment it hits the market. While I am fresh out of crystal balls and can’t accurately predict what’s going to happen, certain outcomes are more likely than others.
If we take a look at the game’s official Twitter page, we easily get an idea of the amount of hype it was able to generate. Plenty of bees are already gathering around Escape Doodland, with media outlets and YouTube channels all over the world sharing their opinions and gameplay footage.
Unless something tragic happens, this title seems to be destined to succeed. The few more months at the devs’ disposal can be used to iron out some of the bugs and add their finishing touches. The fact that our preview copy came with a lengthy questionnaire about our first impressions shows how that’s exactly what the team is planning to do!
That’s it, at least for now! If you want to know more about Escape Doodland, you’re free to add the game to your Steam wishlist.
One last thing, just to be completely transparent: I did reference drugs in this preview, but neither I nor the developers condone the use of illegal substances.
In layman’s terms: don’t be a moron!