Escape Doodland is a unique new platforming runner developed by flukymachine and published by Qubic Games. Like other runners, the player moves automatically and must maneuver around obstacles and hazards. It has a comedic focus centered around a whacky, semi-grotesque universe where the player will need to jump over yellow snow, jump into a toilet, and dodge kamikaze ragweeds etc. It is difficult, but those familiar with runners and platformers will immediately recognize the game's fundamentals.
Escape Doodland can be purchased on the Nintendo eShop for regional pricing. It will be officially released on November 30th.
Escape Doodland doesn't have any plot whatsoever. You start out running away--as a dood I presume--from a giant monster whose jaws are always just a pace or two behind you. Your town is under attack; your brethren flee while great balls of fire bombard your ex-home, and you can do nothing but run. That is about it for the plot (I doubt these doods can even really speak).
Before moving on, one massive gripe I had with the game was the lack of tutorials. There is a tutorial stage of sorts, but you aren't even pointed towards it. On top of that, there is a shop where you can buy new characters, and I had no idea whether or not these characters gave me any extra benefits or how the economic system even worked. The developers definitely could have given the player a better heads up on how the finer mechanics and side content functioned in the game.
Escape Doodland is both a runner and a hardcore platformer. The player is always running from a huge monster (or another obstacle in the case of level eight), but there are tons of platforming choices to be made. These generally involve the classic jump, climb, or dodge, but there are a few surprises thrown into the game to set it apart.
The controls in Escape Doodland could hardly be simpler. You don't need to worry about running, so basically just tap "A" to jump or hold the button to climb up the sides of surfaces. You can press up on the analog stick or d-pad to jump higher, press right to launch yourself to the right (to get away from the impending jaws in most cases), or my favorite, you can press left to fart and stun the monster chasing you for a short duration of time.
These simple controls run smoothly. I never had any issues with response time or lag, even in handheld mode, and this made the experience that much more enjoyable. This also means that it's a blast to play with any controller including the joy-cons on the switch since you don't have demands that require precise and quick usage of the d-pad.
Lastly, there is the option of a double jump, which is very useful. By tapping the "A" button a second time while in the air, the dood will get a second jump, assisting you in reaching new ledges that are further apart. This is also the easiest way to die. This game is quick, and choosing between a single and double jump can mean the difference between instant death or a shot at a new checkpoint. It will become intuition on certain segments of the stages, but the developers intentionally made many points where you will have tough route choices for better rewards that require more intense jumping and reflex skills.
There are ten levels in Escape Doodland, and you get a choice of hard or harder. Hard is essentially normal, and in this mode, there are checkpoints, usually found after completing about 20% increments of a given stage. Checkpoints don't make you invulnerable though; you have three hearts, and each new checkpoint restores one. Die three times before reaching a new checkpoint--and believe me you will--and it's back to the beginning of the entire stage for you.
This is a tough game. It will be a challenge to beat the first level without dying multiple times for many players, myself included.
The option of Harder has no checkpoints. That's right, you need to beat the whole stage in one try without dying. If you can do it, you get an extra yellow bean, which helps you unlock later stages and stuff in the shop (more on that in the next section). It is definitely a challenge, but I managed to beat the first few stages on harder, and it's definitely an adrenaline rush.
The Beans and Shopping
There are two kinds of beans in each stage. There are green beans (about twelve per stage) and yellow beans (three or four per stage) that help you unlock later levels. The green beans are scattered about and optional, but getting more of them unlocks more yellow beans, and you can also use green beans as a currency in the shop.
The shop is interesting. You can unlock new characters, power-ups (which I never discovered until late in the game) and a few other things including extra yellow beans. I unlocked every character, but I think they all pretty much play the same. You only unlock them for aesthetic purposes. Buying yellow beans can be useful when you cannot beat a stage (that dastardly seventh level!) and don't really need anything else.
The yellow beans do get new stages and essentially mark how much of the game you have completed. each stage has three beans that can be unlocked on hard and a fourth that can be unlocked by beating the harder mode.
Graphics and Sound
Escape Doodland is a graphical gem. It was the first thing that drew me in while I was watching the trailer and the stunning visuals never cease to amaze--except when you are running and can't pay attention to them--throughout the game. Seriously, this game is absolutely beautiful, and even the odd white gridded skies had a charm to them that hearkened back to a lot of old retro games.
Make no mistake though, these graphics look positively modern. It plays out like a psychedelic comic book, and there are tons of details to be gleaned in each stage. There are NPCs running around interacting with each other, and the themes of the stage are all well fleshed out. Whether you are in a snowy mountain, a toilet pipe, or an old western, each stage feels alive and makes you feel like you are actually in the intended environment. The animations are great as well. I wanted to punch those fish in level seven--which I still cannot beat by the way--each time they ate me and grinned. I loved that the big-jawed pursuer was wearing a cowboy hat in the final stage, and tons of little smile-inducing surprises litter each and every stage.
In short, the visuals here are nothing short of stunning and captivating, and they mark some of the finer 2D graphics I have seen on the Switch so far.
The music is simply awesome! Sound the kazoos and get the wind chimes, because this soundtrack is just oozing with odd elegance. Seriously, I picture myself sitting in a pleasantly psychotic ragtime party in the 1920s in some speakeasy while I play this game (and I mean that in the best way possible).
The soundtrack is actually quite diverse, but it usually pumped me up to give escaping another go, and I just loved the odd instrumentation and how it complimented the environments of the game. Escape Doodland never takes itself too seriously, and that is for the better. It's rare to see a comedic adventure have such a great soundtrack, but the developers have done a really admirable job here of making the soundtrack more than just an afterthought.
Escape Doodland is a really fun running platformer. It's also very difficult, so for those who don't like semi-hardcore platformers, this may not be for you. As far as length, ten levels felt like the right amount. The levels are all distinct with their own baddies and obstacles, and there is plenty of reason to try to beat the levels on the harder difficulty to get more yellow beans (I am still not sure what a few of those shop items actually do). The smooth controls make this game a pure joy to play, and the soundtrack and visuals stand out, even amongst a crowded 2D platforming genre.
I did find that there was little to no information on how to play the game, what the beans were for, and what the point of some of the shop items actually was. A larger tutorial and actual explanations would have been nice, but it doesn't take long to explore the game and find out answers for yourself.
I haven't played a lot of runners as of yet, but I really enjoyed this game, and it felt like the right amount of challenge. It's very hard, but you always see your chances rise as you keep replaying a stage (and believe it or not, certain stages can be beaten in one try. I did it once). If you like platformers and beautiful 2D indie games, then this is for you. It's a surprise gem, and the developer's polish and commitment to making a fun but relentless adventure really pays off. The only downside is that it may feel a little short for some people, but there are easily a solid three to five hours of gameplay here, and probably more if you are on the completionist end of the spectrum.
|+ Great stage design||– Difficulty will turn off some|
|+ Controls are perfect||– Shop felt underwhelming|
|+ Lighthearted and charming||– Lack of tutorial and explanations|
|+ Awesome aesthetics|