Phogs! Review – Charming Puzzle-Adventure for All Ages

Phogs! Review

Phogs! is the vibrantly colourful, smooth puzzle game that I didn’t realize I needed during these turbulent times. Recommended by a fellow gamer, I went into this title fairly blind, but I quickly discovered what makes it such a great puzzle game. Phogs! is dripping with charm. From the protagonist who is a two-headed dog that resembles a noodle of some sort, to the level and environmental design, character design, the gameplay itself, and far more. The Phogs are controlled individually with one head being controlled using the left analog stick, and the other head being controlled with the right analog stick. While Phogs! isn’t the first game to introduce such a mechanic, Bit Loom Games finds creative ways to challenge players with puzzles that vary in difficulty in a title that’s great for all ages due to its inoffensive nature.

Most of the stages in Phogs! are themed, with my personal favorite centering around a beach theme, with a train circling the center of it. As someone who grew up in a beach town with unavoidable train tracks in order to access it, this cheerful and energetic stage not only reminded me of my hometown but kept me in a genuinely cheerful mood. While there are puzzles you must complete in order to progress through each stage, these are also fun playgrounds to explore with strange characters and various examples of laugh-out-loud moments ignoring the puzzles. Many of the puzzles keep the laughs roling, however, with a lot of the physics in the game being far more playful than the real-world physics associated with certain objects. The train, for example, will simply bounce you around if you get hit. When you enter the water, you bounce around like a bobber with a spring in its bounce, and there are air vents that shoot the noodle dog into the air as if the two-headed creature were made of nothing at all. Beyond that, the dog duo can stretch to absurd lengths, which is particularly hilarious when the wind blows one head away from the other, causing some graphical spasming similar to my high school animation failures, only the Phogs snap back into place when the wind stops, allowing you to progress to the next puzzle.

Relaxing Music, Beautiful Pallet

There are dozens of puzzles to discover throughout Phogs! across the multiple stages, with each of them focusing on the two-heads of the dogs. Some puzzles require you to bite something with one head, then bite the next thing with the other head in gameplay that felt similar to learning how to climb the monkey bars as a kid by putting one hand ahead of the other in order to utilize the swing momentum. Phogs! utilizes momentum in a lot of puzzles, with some requiring you to re-route some wind power in order to move something else, or big balls requiring a lot of force at first before it gains the momentum like the proverbial snowball. Each object in Phogs! feels like it either plays a purpose or is an aspect of the environmental storytelling of the game.

PAX West 2018

None of the characters in Phogs! has a voice, but they all have character, and this doesn’t make it hard to navigate from one level to another. Hints come in several forms: brief cutscenes that show new changes to the area, a little blue beetle that will guide the way similar to Navi in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, though far less intrusive, and the two-headed dog itself will present certain hints through thought bubbles or simply whining at the player. Controlling one head of the dog too much makes the other dog feel neglected, adding a small micromanagement system to the game, though it lacks consequences and it’s impossible to go too long without utilizing both heads due to the co-operative nature of Phogs! Considering how most of these puzzles are solved, I’m looking forward to seeing how fast speedrunners can complete the game. While it offers great co-op, I think Phogs! could’ve killed it with a big rock climbing wall multiplayer mode which would pit players against each other to see who can reach the top first. Phogs! and rock climbing seem like such a natural fit that I actually feel like Bit Loom Games dropped the ball in this regard. Tarsier Studios’ The Stretchers is another co-op game that functions similarly to Phogs! that released recently, so fans of The Stretchers should definitely consider this more colourful puzzle game.

When I looked into Phogs!, I didn’t know what to expect. This is a prime example of don’t judge a book by its cover, as Phogs! has become my favorite puzzle title since Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince released. Considering the fun and playful nature of the game, I highly recommend Phogs! to kids or parents who just want to get their children into a fun puzzle game. For more mature gamers, I am not sure this will challenge you enough. That said, this is one of those Switch games that look just as good on the go as it does on the TV, making it an excellent game on the go. The general vibes I got from playing Phogs! are almost identical to those I felt with Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle as I felt like anything could be around any corner and I never knew what to expect. If you’re looking for a puzzle game that will cheer you up through hard times, Phogs! will put a smile on your ‘phace’.

***Nintendo Switch code provided by publisher***

The Good

  • Cheerful and playful tone
  • Fun puzzles that vary in difficulty
  • Unique physics
  • Beautifully colourful visuals

The Bad

  • Minimal customization
  • Missing a big replayable mode