This review is available in both written and video format. Both versions have the same ‘script’, so if you’re able to watch the video I’d recommend doing that, since you can see the game in action without worrying about missing anything I’ve written. Here’s the video:
Screenwave Media / Moving Pieces Interactive
Switch, Apple Arcade (Switch version reviewed)
Dodo Peak was a launch title on Apple Arcade in September last year, back when we all still naively thought that for the foreseeable future we’d be outdoors with our phones a lot.
It’s finally broken free of its iOS shackles, though, and arrived on the Switch eShop this week. It’s a good job it did, too, because while it’s a fairly basic game in the grand scheme of things it’s also an entertaining one that’ll keep you busy for a while.
The general concept feels like what you’d get if you took the arcade classic Q*bert and based it on rescue missions instead. The world is made up of cubes, and you play as a dodo who can hop from cube to cube.
Each stage has a set number of baby dodo eggs dotted around, and your aim is to head out, find each egg (at which point it’ll hatch) then escort the babies back to the starting point where they’ll be safe.
Obviously it’s not as easy as that: each stage is also inhabited by a variety of enemies, and one touch will put your dodo on its arse. That’s hardly a groundbreaking gameplay mechanic, of course, but there’s a twist.
Each time you hatch an egg and start trailing a baby behind you, the baby will also be vulnerable. You might be able to slip past an enemy, but if a baby behind you hits the enemy instead that still counts: you’ll need to start the stage again.
This gets even trickier in later stages where you’re gathering four, five or maybe even more eggs. You can’t drop some off and come back for the rest: you have to collect them all in one run, meaning by the time you’re heading to the exit you’ve got a big long string of babies behind you that you have to guide away from danger.
Thankfully, there aren’t any lives in this game, you get as many tries as you like. As the stages get more complex and the number of eggs increases you’ll welcome this, because it means you get the freedom to experiment with different routes through each stage.
What seems like the most obvious path through a stage may be deceiving, because the last part could be trickier to navigate when you’ve got a bunch of babies behind you. Sometimes it’s worth making your way through the harder bits first and saving the easier section until later when it’s easier to get past with a long ‘tail’.
There are also a couple of power-ups you can collect to make things a bit easier. The watermelon makes your dodo move extremely quickly, which is useful when you’re trying to beat the level within a certain time (more on that in a bit), while the sort of radish-looking thing makes you invincible for a brief period, letting you kill enemies and stride through obstacles unharmed.
There are 60 stages in total, split into six worlds. Each world has its own different environment – beach, snow, the usual sort of thing – as well as its own enemies, which have their own movement patterns. Crabs follow your own movements, monkeys always move in your direction, you know the drill.
If it wasn’t clear that this was originally a mobile game, the fact that each stage scores you out of three stars should make it obvious. You get one star for simply beating the level, but the others are given for a variety of tasks which are different in each stage: it could be clearing it within a set time, collecting an optional red gem along the way, wiping out all the enemies on a stage, or what have you.
Along the way you’ll find coins lying around. Collecting them will increase your overall coin tally which can then be spent on different dodo outfits, which in turn affect the speed your dodo runs at. Some of them aren’t even dodos, which feels like sacrilege but there you go.
It feels like the sort of thing that would have been ripe for microtransactions had this been a standard free-to-play mobile game instead of an Apple Arcade one, but instead here you just unlock them through good old-fashioned hard work like back in the day.
Nothing I’ve told you here will have you peeling your face off and screaming that you never knew such originality was possible. If you’re looking for a brand new experience that will change the gaming landscape you might want to look as far away as you can. Dodo Peak is well-trodden territory, and anyone who’s ever played Q*bert, or Frogger, or Crossy Road or anything like that will know the script here.
You know something though? It doesn’t really matter. Not every game has to reinvent the wheel and at £7.49 there’s enough here to keep you busy for long enough to get your money’s worth (especially if you’re the sort of person like me who absolutely has to 3-star every level).
It isn’t perfect: sometimes the dodo can move a little sluggishly, which can on occasion lead to a frustrating death. Unlocking faster dodos alleviates this a bit, but it’s never completely gone.
There’s also a slight random element to the enemy placement at times: not noticeable enough to make it completely different every time you play a level, but subtle enough to make it harder for you to use trial and error to perfect your route on more difficult stages (it makes beating your best time for each stage slightly more of a luck-based affair too).
In general, though, I had a fun time with this one, working my way through its 60 stages and cursing it upside-down every now and then when I couldn’t quite nail the three stars on one. It’s reasonably cheap, pretty cheerful and, ultimately, you could do a lot worse.
Dodo Peak is out now on Nintendo Switch and Apple Arcade as a digital-only release.
In order that I could write this review, I received a review code from a PR. The content of my review and the opinions therein were in no way positively influenced by this.
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