Game Reviews

PHOGS! Review

Sensational co-op fun

by Kyle Hanson

With most games you can look at them and immediately get what they’re going for. Sure, the Mushroom Kingdom is a zany place, but you get a good look at a Mario game and you usually understand what’s going on. PHOGS! is not one of these games. This co-op (local and online) focused puzzle platformer will certainly confuse you, but it will also delight and entertain you (and a friend) for hours. So, what exactly is PHOGS?

PHOGS! which is short for physics dogs, features a two headed dog that looks like a wiener of some kind. As body-horrorish as it might seem, this ridiculously cute creature is your guide through this insanely vibrant and unique world. There’s no real story or plot to be described here, the game just sort of starts up and you’re good to go. What do you do? Explore, solve puzzles, and make your way through three surprisingly large worlds full of charm and well designed gameplay.

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Those three worlds feature six stages (plus a finale) a piece and are built off the three main components of a dog’s life: eating, playing, and sleeping. Each world is themed well and presents players with truly different landscapes to explore. Though the game is linear, there are enough nooks and crannies to look around and find hidden fun in each stage. Though there’s no story or dialogue, the characters that occupy these spaces will still charm you through their design and animation. Sure, these aren’t the high quality character models and textures of a AAA release, but the style fits perfectly. PHOGS! feels like a living cartoon in some ways, so the low fidelity visuals match well.

PHOGS! is a real gaming treat.

The world of PHOGS! might not make a whole lot of sense and yet players will come away from the game with a true attachment to it. The merch for this game (some of which was sent along for the review) is already pretty great and I see a lot more coming in the months ahead. The character and world designs are simply superb and could easily lead to many sequels in the future.

So, the art and design are all great, but what about the gameplay? What are you even doing in these expertly crafted worlds? Simple, you grab onto things and stretch your body. Each of the two heads of your PHOG can move independently and attach or grab onto certain objects. Holding down the trigger allows you to stretch, making for something that looks reminiscent of the creatures from Push Me Pull You. That’s it. That’s all you really can do. And yet with these simple mechanics PHOGS! builds some truly engaging platforming and puzzle solving arenas.

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I say platforming, but you can’t really jump. You can bark, which you’ll do a whole lot of simply because it’s endlessly fun barking at every single thing in the game, and it will propel you up just a little bit. But otherwise you’re sliding your two heads around, hopefully with a second person to help since that’s by far the best way to play the game, biting onto objects and stretching your body to accomplish a task or make it across a gap. This could glitch out on occasion, forcing a reset but this was rare and never caused more than a moment of frustration. So the gameplay mechanics are simple stuff, and yet across the over a dozen hours in PHOGS! it never felt repetitive or overly simplistic.

Each of the three main hub worlds changes up the gameplay along with the visuals. One offers more platforming, another more puzzles, and the Play world is a series of truly unique challenges. So while powering through the six stages of one hub might start to wear on your patience, you can mix it up by just switching to the other worlds.

While exploring these stages there’s quite a bit to do, whether it’s watering plants to make a bridge, connecting air nozzles to fans, or just collecting objects and putting them where they need to be. You also have a series of optional objectives with bones that are scattered around the map. Some simply require you to reach them while others task you with a goal of some sort. The game could use a few more optional elements, especially since some portions of the map feel a bit empty and useless otherwise. Still, what is there helps add a lot of challenge where PHOGS! might otherwise feel pretty easy and simplistic.

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PHOGS! is certainly aimed at a wide audience. You can play solo, so co-op isn’t required. However, it is definitely the best way to play the game. Working together to accomplish these goals is the real joy, and it’s lost when you are just struggling to do it yourself. And most objectives are built so that there’s little quarterbacking. Most of the time both players will see the puzzle and immediately get what needs to be done, even if the details are still getting worked out as you try to solve it.

Gamers with children or inexperienced partners will find something truly joyous in PHOGS! It’s a game that works for both veteran puzzle platformer players and newbies alike, and teaming them up creates a great experience all around. There’s practically no consequences in PHOGS! You aren’t working against a clock, and falling just resets you right back where you were, thanks to a generous checkpoint system. You can rarely mess up a puzzle to the point that it’s unsolvable, and if you do then a reset is just a few button taps away. And yet its difficulty never really feels too easy or difficult at any point, which is truly remarkable.

The Verdict

PHOGS! is a real gaming treat. It’s a very well crafted co-op focused experience which works whether the players are of equal or different skill levels. It’s a budget release, yet feels very content-rich for the price. And it creates a unique world that is both memorable and fun to experience. Solo play is still great fun too, though if that’s your only option the game is a bit less enticing.

- This article was updated on:December 2nd, 2020

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PHOGS!

  • Available On: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Stadia
  • Published By: Coatsink
  • Developed By: Bit Loom Games
  • Genre: Puzzle Platformer
  • US Release Date: December 3rd, 2020
  • Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
  • Quote: "PHOGS! is a real gaming treat. It's a very well crafted co-op focused experience which works whether the players are of equal or different skill levels. It's a budget release, yet feels very content-rich for the price. And it creates a unique world that is both memorable and fun to experience."
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