A review by Tom Parry
I have never played a game like Dogos, I’ve played similar things but never an overhead shooter with the kind of explorative freedom that this game has, and for the most part it’s a rather impressive and enjoyable game.
You are Desmond and your task is to wipe-out the evil alien Zeetnuk forces through a series of 14 objective based missions. The nature of these missions, at their core, involve shooting everything in sight in your rather nimble spacecraft. You have various weapons at your disposal, ranging from a laser to take down airborne enemies to various bombing weapons to take down ground targets. You also gain access to some more powerful Special weapons, such as Homing Missiles and the super powerful Mega Bomb, a personal favourite.
Your foes, The Zeetnuk, are resourceful sorts and you’ll find yourself having to take down their various small spacecraft and more deadly heavier airborne forces as well as ground targets including tanks, boats and some particularly vicious gun turrets who take great pleasure in harassing you with homing missiles.
This may all be sounding rather familiar but what makes Dogos unique is that the game isn’t on-rails (at least for the most part, but we’ll come to that later). The player has the freedom to explore a rather large terrain and can call on a map to find their next objective. Most of the time, especially at the beginning of the game your waypoints are clearly marked on the map so it’s just a case of flying to the next objective although later on, especially in the last 3 missions a little more exploration must be done to find your next objective, Dogos does a great job of never letting the player get too lost either with some friendly level design.
The mission objectives in Dogos vary, but for the most part involve bombing the Neetnuk’s nefarious facilities, usually taking down shield generators or reactors in order to eventually take down a bigger foe. Some of the larger foes in the game include a large battleship and an armoured, heavily weaponised train.
Movement is a twin-stick affair; the left stick is your throttle while the right stick turns your ship. This works well in practice and allows you to easily weave your way around the enemy’s hail of laser fire with ease.
As the game progresses it introduces some rather tricky obstacles, such as beam doors, which flash on and off giving you a small opportunity to fly through, only to be faced with a series of even trickier barriers. There’s plenty of this close quarters beam dodging, which can be frustrating at times, especially as you manage the ships momentum (it never stops dead when you want it too). However, you will gain improved control of your ship as you play, rewarding practice and patience, and while Dogos may seem harsh in places, it is always fair. It’s certainly an accessible game and frequent checkpoints really help levitate the game’s more frustrating challenges.
Dogos occasionally shakes things up with high speed ‘on-rails’ sections where you have to pilot your craft through a dangerous series of canyons or tight corridors, sometimes while bombarded by various other obstacles that appear in your path. These sections are few and far between and while they give the game a much needed sense of speed (a boost button would be a nice to have), they are sometimes frustrating and often feel unnecessary. Later forced on-rails sections seem to delight in throwing obstacles in front of you with little notice, giving the player a fraction of a second to react. With a bit of patience, you’ll make it through these sections but they can be frustrating and the sudden change of pace can also be a little jarring.
There is no doubt that the core shooting mechanics of Dogos are very enjoyable though and there’s a variety of weapons to unlock too as you progress in the game. These can give you a nice tactical advantage in places. Once you get the ‘Spitfire’ laser and Cluster Bombs though, you have a winning combination.
The game even attempts at having a narrative that can be followed by listening to Desmond narrate his Diary between levels, it’s a rather simple story with little depth or deep explanation but what it succeeds in doing is giving the player a motive for destroying the game’s hordes of enemies.
Desmond sounds like a man who has little hope and his narration is delivered in a suitably appropriate manner. It’s a nice little touch, as is the dialogue Desmond has with his ally, Europa during the game’s missions, which peppers the game with a touch of humanity. Having said that these sections could be better implemented and cut scenes would greatly enhance the proceedings.
As mentioned previously, the game is spread across 14 levels, which include a good variety of locales, from the distinct desert canyons of the first couple of levels, to volcanic caves, tropical stormy seas then eventually into the inner workings of a Zeetnuk spacecraft where you take down the game’s final boss.
The game doesn’t really excel in boss battles sadly though and there’s a feeling that it could do with a few more, at least a little more variety would be nice (you fight the rather underwhelming ‘Goliath’ a total of three times during the games final missions). What is here though is satisfying enough, plenty of projectile dodging ensues but the bosses do have a bad habit of overstaying their welcome and occasionally go on for what feels like an age. A life bar would be a welcome addition for sure.
Worthy of note are the game’s graphics, this is a nice looking game for sure, not only from a graphical standpoint but from a design standpoint also. All the vehicles in the game have their own distinct personalities and everything on screen is very easy on the eyes.
The game’s colour palette is refreshingly bright and while the graphics are certainly of this generation they also have a retro throwback feel, provoking nostalgic memories of the bygone Amiga era.
Musically Dogos is rather underwhelming, the game has a limited soundtrack comprising of a handful of tracks that are re-used far too frequently and often don’t represent the fast paced nature of what’s going on in the game most of the time. A more dynamic soundtrack would help elevate the game’s atmosphere immensely. While some of the tracks are fairly enjoyable to listen to they don’t change up enough when needed and sadly, Dogos ends up feeling flat in the music department for the most part.
In summary, Dogos does a lot of things very well. It has great graphics, satisfying finely tuned controls and nice level design but falls flat in other areas like sound, variety and overall presentation and wow-factor. The frustrating thing about Dogos is it’s almost all there, just the pieces aren’t meshing together as well as they could be, with a few more varied mission objectives, a more dynamic soundtrack, better boss battles and overall greater coherence and polished presentation Dogos would certainly be 'Top Dog'. As it stands though Dogos is a solidly crafted shooter which offers up a refreshing change of pace when compared to other games of its ilk.
I strongly recommend that you give Dogos a go. It provides a rewarding, unique and accessible shooting experience that has some nice challenge, it’s a good length too, providing about 6 hours gameplay to complete the main story and then an incentive to play though the levels again to complete extra challenges.
What I really hope is that enough people try this game to encourage a sequel, as I feel it wouldn’t take a lot more to make this game a top drawer title.
DOGOS is available NOW (Sept 6) for download on PS4 and from Sept 7. for download on XBOXONE and STEAM platforms.