Cool Dog is an isometric maze game for iOS that has a decent level of polish and a nice feeling of character, but is ultimately let down by some mundane gameplay that never really gets going. The game stars the developer’s dog, Darby, who unfortunately died before the game could be completed.
It is fitting then, that the game has a lot of character, thanks in no small part to the design of the dog that does help to make the game stand out.
You control Darby, or one of another two unlockable hounds, as he tries to make his way out of various isometric mazes. You touch a part of the maze with your finger, and he will automatically start walking to that point via the fastest route he can. He has a limited range, which you need to be aware of as you scroll around the maze, and if you try to get him to walk too far the game will buzz to alert you to your mistake.
The aim is to get to the kennel at the end of the level in as little time as possible, all the while trying to collect the bones that are scattered around the level. Grab them all and you will get bonus coins at the end of the stage, and there are also some golden bones that will only appear for a few seconds before disappearing; these are worth many more bones.
There are also some power-ups laying around, such as dog food that speeds you up for a while, but there are also some negative items, such as bouncing balls that will give you a time penalty. That is really it for the basic gameplay, although you can jump barriers with a certain dog.
As the levels are all mazes, there are a lot of dead ends, but with many of the bones placed along these routes you are going to have to explore them. This is where the problem with the game lies, as it can be so frustrating to miss a bone and have to go trundling back to some point in the level, which can literally take several minutes. Yes, the point of the game is to avoid this, but the lack of things to do on the way adds to the boredom. There are the balls to avoid, but due to the dead ends they are sometimes completely unavoidable, so you must just wait until the animation ends, and when there can be three stacked up waiting for you, that is fifteen seconds of screen staring time.
It just creates a dull game, but I think there is still hope here. Get rid of the dead ends, have everything in the maze interconnected so you always have an escape, add more dangerous game ending enemies that can be avoided with a well timed jump or two, and fill the entire level with bones. Yes, essentially create PacMania but with dogs and bones. There is a decent game here hiding away underneath the plodding mazes. There also needs to be a damn site more levels than three included, random items or not. There should be dozens and dozens of them.
I also have another major gripe here. The game requires you to win coins to spend on new levels, dogs and upgrades, but the shop screen has a big error. For example, I went into the shop to spend some hard earned(repeating the first stage a dozen times) coins on some upgrades. I am presented with big icons with no text explaining what the items actually do, so I touch an item to get more info and bang- the item is purchased and my coins are gone. The developer needs to add some basic information about what the items actually do, or at least provide an ‘are you sure?’ dialogue.
Overall, this has, if you will pardon the pun, the bones of a decent game. There is a lot of character here, and the need to collect all the bones on each stage is quite compelling, but a critical lack of levels and the trudgingly slow play hold this one back. Good for the very young and super patient, lets hope the developer can add some much needed depth to Cool Dog.
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