It’s odd to review a game that is essentially older than me. Doughlings Invasion makes no effort to distance itself from its Space Invaders heritage. If you like Space Invaders, that’s really not a bad thing. It’s a slightly different take on an old winning formula and some of the new features work and others don’t.
Solidly, it’s still absolutely Space Invaders. If you’ve been looking for a game to scratch your arcade itch on the Switch it easily fills the void.
Doughlings Invasion Review
The plot is not really existent aside from the not so subtle nod that there are invaders, they’re from space, and you’ve gotta shoot ‘em. Realistically I’m glad they didn’t try to shoe in some epic saga.
I like that there’s not too much in the way of my pick up and play fun. You take the role of the Doughling scientist Morpheus and his various alter-egos to defend your planet in a fairly standard arcade affair.
In the typical fashion, enemies move across the screen horizontally and you shoot each other. The controls are simple and easy to learn. I do wish there wasn’t a pause on your movement when you shoot, which has killed me more than a few times. However, I understand this is the style of the game and a tactical lesson.
You can also only have one bullet on the screen at a time which means just spamming wildly isn’t an option. Doughlings Invasion would be way too easy without this so once you’re used to timing yourself appropriately, it’s a smart choice.
Levels are incremental, introducing new enemies, abilities, obstacles, and difficulties. This is fairly straightforward and comes at a slow enough pace that you get to learn one thing at a time. Variety of the spice of life and this is some well-seasoned dough.
The downside is that lives carry over for each level so seeing a new enemy can mean you die for lack of knowledge. It’s frustrating to lose progress just because you’re unfamiliar with a new type of threat.
There are explanations in the loading screens for some of the mechanics but they, like all the text in this game, are weirdly tiny. I’m not sure what this current theme with small text in games is but I’m against it.
I think this leads to one of my biggest problems with Doughlings Invasion and it’s just that the level system doesn’t allow for failure. Each section contains several levels and then a boss fight. You gain and lose lives as you progress but if you die you’re set back to square one of the section. This means that a stupid death can set you back several levels to have to replay and that’s not all.
More than Meets the Rye
There’s a cool RPG system that allows you to level up Morpheus. First, you can make his base weapon’s abilities more powerful and as you unlock personas, you get skill trees for them as well.
The way to level them up is to make sure you kill the queens (mother ships) that fly across the top of the screen for each level. Each kill will award you points to put into these skill trees.
I liked this mechanic because it gives you an incentive for trying to take out these bonus enemies. However, if you die your stats reset to whatever you had at the beginning of the level as well. This means you have to work at respeccing your character every time and it’s not like there are enough choices to make this valid to experiment.
Instead, it’s frustrating to go through all these same motions again and again. It also means if you get a less than perfect run you may as well restart or you may be behind in the skill tree, putting your whole play at a disadvantage down the line.
This goes the same for losing lives too early.
Thankfully there is some forgiveness in the boss battles. You get a checkpoint just before them so dying during one isn’t the worst. This is especially good as the bosses will have their own tricks you’ll need to learn to take them on.
The different abilities make for a nice variation on the usual gameplay. Shooting a slowly descending line of alien invaders can get a bit samey and having a more dynamic enemy now and then does a good job of changing up the action. They also require you to think more tactfully than reflex-based which is a nice change of pace.
It is still frustrating to die just because you haven’t yet learnt the quirks of a boss but at least you’re only set back to that level. There’s also a nice sense of satisfaction once you’ve mastered their patterns.
Bap to Basics
Artistically, Doughlings Invasion looks like a mobile game. The characters and backgrounds are large and cartoony and colourful. The music is similarly generic and there’s just not much worth saying about it. The whole vibe is a bit off-putting to me just because I don’t tend to enjoy mobile titles but it’s also fairly clean.
The enemies are easy to distinguish thanks to their vibrant primary colours. However, their bullets aren’t always quite so easy to pick up. More than a few times I ran into a bullet I didn’t even see because it blended into the background a bit too much.
I suddenly realised why the older style of bright on black has worked so well for Space Invaders games in the past.
It also seemed like not everything telegraphed as well as it should. Some enemies that crash down create explosions larger than themselves and I was often caught out by being too close. This just builds on my frustrations because most of the time when I die in Doughlings Invasion I don’t feel like it’s my fault.
Between bullets that are just a bit too hard to see, sudden new enemies, and unexpectedly large explosions I often felt like death was unfair. I don’t feel like Doughlings Invasion is particularly difficult but I did feel like it cheesed me, a lot.
To have an unexpected or unfair feeling death and then be set back to the beginning of that set of levels is just really frustrating. It’s harder to progress in this game than I feel it should be and it feels like less of a challenge issue than perhaps a little bit of a communication break down.
Invaders From Space
Weirdly, this isn’t as big of a problem as it could be in another game. It’s still fairly fun to play Space Invaders even if you are playing the same levels over and over again. Especially so if you’re looking for a game to play in short bursts. It’s a good waste of time for a few minutes and if you master it, you can then unlock harder difficulties for more challenge.
I like Space Invaders, so I like Doughlings Invasion. The RPG touches and variety of enemies add a little something extra to the mix. There are things I wish were better and the addition of different modes aside from the usual levels would be nice.
However, mostly it’s just simple and solid and exactly what you’d expect.
Doughlings Invasion was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by the developer.
Game Title: Doughlings Invasion
Game Description: Another tribute paid to yet another arcade classic from the Hero Concept team! Doughlings: Invasion promises a fun gaming experience to gamers of all ages with the innovations it brings to the shooting genre.