- Developer: Apriori Digital
- Publisher: Apriori Digital
- Release date: 22/10/2020
- Price: $8.99
- Review code provided by Apriori Digital
Introducing: Double Pug Switch Review
I love animals! I spent a significant part of my childhood having either a cat or a dog around and giving the cat a cuddle is the first thing I do when I visit my mom since I don’t have a pet at the moment (allergic roommate). However, I have never understood the appeal of pugs. When I look at a pug I always just end up thinking how horrible our selective breeding ruined their ability to breathe and how they just… kinda creep me out. However, a cute little cartoon version of doesn’t give me any of the same feelings so I was able to jump into Double Pug Switch without shame!
Time for science!
I wasn’t expecting a simple little platformer like this to have much of a story but I was more than happy to see it. Any excuse to look at these cute character designs was okay with me. So the game starts off with a scientist in her lab with her pug, Otis, and her cat, Whiskers, and Whiskers does what cats do, causes problems on purpose. With some portal fluid knocked over, everyone ends up sucked into a portal and shot off into another dimension. As Otis, the professor tasks you with finding Whiskers and bringing him home while getting home yourself. It’s a simple concept but it’s about all that you need to get going and working your way through the levels of the game.
There are these cute little scenes where the characters all talk to each other and it might be explained where exactly the portal has spat you out for the zone. It’s nothing groundbreaking but it’s all just kind of cute and fun. The writing is well aware of how silly this all is and doesn’t take anything too seriously, letting you just sit back and have a good time with it. There’s an inherent comedy in how Whiskers achieves some sort of sentience and the ability to speak by going through the portal while Otis just remains a dopey pug. Whiskers also going from making some mischief to total megalomaniacal maniac that wants to take over the world? That’s just kind of the vibe cats have, you know?
The gameplay is the star here for sure and I find myself being of two minds about it. What we have here is an automatic runner. Otis will just hurry himself blindly forward and all you have to do is hit the jump button, easy enough, right? Well, not quite. There’s a second parallel version of Otis in this strange dimension and you can easily swap between the two with the press of another button. Each of the two sides to this coin have a different set of platforms to jump on and hazards to avoid. So if you want to get through a level to the end, you’re going to have to swap back and forth between the two in order to keep moving forward. Everything is instant death, so dying comes easy, but you’re back in the action again with the press of a button so it’s never a real setback and the game keeps count of your deaths too so that’s fun!
As you’re running you can pick up and collect two kinds of coins which can each be used to buy different hats for Otis to wear. This never failed to be cute and had me eagerly saving up for the hats that I really wanted. This isn’t needed and it doesn’t really add anything to the gameplay, but it is fun and cute so I can’t knock it. Yellow coins are easy to come across and you are going to have to stockpile a lot of these if you want to buy any of the more outrageous common hats, but the purple coins are limited per level like star coins or stars in a Mario game so, while these hats may cost less, they’re going to take a lot more work to get. They are also going to drive completionists absolutely up the wall trying to get them all.
Despite all the fun, there are downsides here, though. Double Pug Switch is one of those platformers that feels less like a game and more like a reflex test. you have to jump and swap in perfect time in order to get through the levels in one piece and that timing just gets tighter and tighter as you go along. While the game introduces more elements to the levels as you go, it all stems from the same basic core. it takes a little getting used to the fact that the switch between the two Otises is not instantaneous. Each time you do so, the game briefly pauses for a visual flash, which takes some getting used to. You’ll barely notice it on early levels, but later on it is vital to be aware of.
There are also times where Double Pug feels like it is being a little unfair. For example, for the longest time I was stuck with a spot where I had to jump up onto a platform, but there was a death spike directly in the center of the platform, you know, where most people would aim to land! Instead of a short press to make a quick jump up, I had to wait until the last possible second to do a long press for a long jump and land on the far side of the death spike and then pray I could jump fast enough again not to run into more spikes. While I don’t mind having to take a few shots at a game, when I am spending 45 minutes over and over on the same short section, I’m liable to need to walk away.
There is also the issue of checkpoints. At most you are going to get three of them in a level and they aren’t spread very evenly, tending to land in a spot where you would otherwise get a quick moment of rest. Going through the whole level in one shot does get you a completion reward of a little crowned pug on the level screen, but given how twitchy the game needs you to be, that’s very hard to do. I do feel like some levels could have used more checkpoints just because of how tricky and unfair some of the levels can be, but it’s not a dealbreaker. However, the levels that I had a real problem with were the ones without any checkpoints at all. Having to redo everything if you fail right at the end can get really frustrating if you’re not intentionally going for perfection.
More tests are needed
The flat art style of this game reminds me a lot of more simple animated series and online animations in the best of ways. It never fails to look cute when it’s in motion and even in still snapshots, it’s great. The character design is a real highlight for me. There’s just something about the dialogue sections having a doing looking dog as one part of the conversation that was always adorable. Most of the time you’re just going to be looking at Otis, but the wide variety in hat options did allow things to be shaken up really easily.
The music isn’t anything that I am going to be humming once I walk away from the game, but the arcadey sound that each area has really played well with the arcade feel that the level themselves can have. However, there is the small problem that the music restarts with each attempt you make instead of just flowing over all your failures. This leads to the all too common problem of hearing the same few seconds of music over and over and over again. If you’re managing to do well, it’s not an issue, but if you get the feeling that you’re going to be stuck in the same place for a while, it might be for the better that you hit that mute button.
Or maybe some fieldwork?
I spent most of my time playing this game handheld and I think that really is the best place to be playing since the game is really geared towards to pick up and play sessions. Playing while docked isn’t going to be any sort of an issue, but I did find myself performing better when I was playing handheld.
It’s also worth noting that this game does not have any accessibility options that adjust the game. There’s no way to adjust the speed of any other gameplay, just the levels of the sounds. So, if you look at gameplay in the trailer and think that it might just be a little bit too fast for you or if you’re not able to push buttons quickly, this might not be a game that’s for you, unfortunately.
Back to the lab
Overall, I am still split on how I feel about Double Pug Switch. It’s one of those games that when I was doing well, I had a really good time, but the moment I was stuck, it was an endless loop of frustration. It’s one of those games that I feel like I like it, but the only moments that I end up having strand out strongly in my mind are the ones that I was stuck for a long time at. If you’re willing to throw yourself endlessly at a twitchy challenge, this might be the one for you, if not, I’d warn you away.
- Super cute artwork
- Silly fun writing
- Fun switching mechanic
- The game can sometimes feel unfair
- Extremely twitchy gameplay
- May cause some players endless frustration
Double Pug Switch feels great on the upswing, but can be kind of like banging your head on a rock when you’re having a rough go of it. If you’re going to like that or not depends on you.