PHOGS! (Switch) Review
Dogs are arguably the best things on the planet. What’s better than a dog? Two dogs! Ok, it may be more of a strange two-headed, dog/snake-like hybrid in the case of PHOGS!, but it’s still a promising foundation for a cute puzzle platformer.
PHOGS! puts you in control of Red and Blue, two adorable friendly pups occupying opposite ends of the same noodle body. Taking obvious inspiration from Push Me Pull You, either one or two players will take control of this unusual creature(s?) to guide them through multiple saccharine worlds filled with puzzles and platforms to conquer.
The controls are simple yet the mere fact that you’re controlling two ends of the same body can lead to a bit of patting your head and rubbing your tummy-type mental gymnastics. Each end can be controlled individually, grab hold of objects and extend in length from the centre of the body. You’ll need to make use of two ends simultaneously to solve many of the challenges that lay before you.
Playing solo is an option but given the tandem nature of the character and controls, this game is truly a co-op game at heart and shines brightest when played in this manner. It removes confusion and encourages communication and cooperation. This works best on the same couch, but the inclusion of online coop is a welcome feature for those who don’t have that option.
Each world you traverse will have different types of challenges awaiting. The Sleep world is focused on puzzles, with an emphasis on flicking light switches to alter the environment so you can progress. The Food world on the other hand tests your platforming skills, requiring you to carefully shift your weight in tandem to clear tricky jumps.
The objects that each head can interact with also change from level to level. One room might require you to grab hold of a pole in the face of a mighty gust of wind, alternating each end as you slowly press forward. Another asks you to grab hold of a light, which then passes through the body and out the head of the other end. The game manages to find enough unique ways to make use of the premise to fill out its eight-hour campaign.
Simply clearing each level is relatively straight forward, but finding the golden bones hidden in each level will require some clever thinking. These are typically put in places that will necessitate creative use of your shape and abilities to reach and provide some welcome additional challenge for those who are after something a little more taxing than what the main route provides.
There are cosmetic unlockables for those willing to sniff them out, which can help to differentiate which of the dog is which. An unfortunate quirk I encountered (which is going to sound super nitpicky) is that Red and Blue are differentiated by their corresponding collars by default. These also happen to match the blue and red joy-cons that come packed in with the neon Switch. For me though, I bought a grey Switch that now has joy-cons suffering from severe drift, so I use a set of neon ones I bought separately which have the colours switched the other way. The option to flip the colours on the collars in the game would be nice, as it constantly got me confused as to which dog was being controlled by which hand when playing solo.
There are some other minor gripes too, such as slow movement and some overly repeated concepts, but these are small quibbles that don’t detract from the quality game underneath.
This is a charming, clever puzzler that is a delightful cooperative experience that is perfect for an afternoon on the couch with a friend or loved one. The simple controls make it easy to pick up, and the witty uses of the core concept will make you smile as much as the brightly coloured scenery. It’s well worth a look if you’re after something a little bit different.
+ Creative concept
+ Satisfying puzzles
+ A perfect coop game for the holidays
- Loses some magic when played solo
- Some reused ideas run thin
- Cutesy aesthetic may not be to everyone’s taste