iPhone Life magazine

Review: Diggin' Dogs by Chillingo

Personally I would find the task of trying to pick out games to publish quite daunting.  When you’re a developer it’s almost inevitable that you think your product is good (or you wouldn’t be making it) but as a publisher you have a whole different perspective on things.  I’m rather impressed with how consistently Chillingo picks out winners.  That’s not to say that every game they publish is gold because there have certainly been some I didn’t like, but the majority have proven to be quite fun.  As you’ve probably guessed by now, Diggin’ Dogs fits into that latter category.  The concepts are tried and true, but the movement mechanic is unique and the lack of a time limit actually gives you the chance to do something that many platformers don’t, which is the opportunity to explore.

Finding Buried Treasure

Diggin’ Dogs is the story of some nasty pirate canines that swipe a pile of golden shoes and the three brave little pups that set on a quest to retrieve every single one of them.  On each level you start with 3 dogs, and at least one has to make it to the golden shoe in order for you to successfully complete the level.  Upon completion of the level you can earn a bronze, silver or gold medal (it is possible to not even earn a medal), and you won’t be able to get a gold if all the dogs don’t make it.  The other item required to earn a gold medal is gold coins.  You collect them throughout the level, and a meter at the top of the screen fills up so you know how close you are to getting the required amount of coins.

There are also three bones to collect on each level.  You don’t have to get them to complete the level, but you do have to get a certain number of bones to unlock the next world (unless you want to buy a global unlock via IAP).  The nice thing about the bones is that if you complete a level you get any bones retrieved during that run, so if you happen to pick up two bones on a level, the next time through you only need to collect the third bone.

Touch To Dig

Various nasty things like ghosts, wasps and more will try and stop you.  Thankfully there is usually a means of disposing of the bad things.  Naturally you could just avoid them, but as an example rocks are handy for dispatching icicles.  Be warned, though, that some items can be both good and bad.  Traps will get rid of wasps for you, but if one of your pups gets caught in the trap instead, well, you’re minus one pup.  You will even get the chance to pick up nifty magical helmets along the way.  Certain ones – like the mushroom and spray can helmets – will turn certain obstacles into coins.  Others just help you get things more easily, like the magnet helmet that attracts coins.  Always be watching out for these because they can make levels a whole lot easier.

You can make the dogs jump by flicking them.  More often the not, however, you will move the pups by digging the ground away with a swipe of your finger.  You can also rotate the device to cause them to move, but I don’t believe you can make them completely fall in the opposite direction.  Either way, the combination of digging and rotating provides for some rather interesting feats of physics at times.  Oh, and there’s also at least one item that can reverse the effects of gravity.

Puppy Power-ups

The game looks good.  The dogs are cute, as are some of the villains.  The backgrounds are nicely detailed, and there are little effects all over the place, like lightning when the magnet attracts coins or a quick glow when a dog chomps one of the bones.  I appreciate the fact that you can basically set the pace of the game as well, which allows you to actually admire some of the scenery if you’d like.  The sound effects compliment the visuals nicely.  Whether it’s the clamp of a trap or the whimper of a poor pup that thinks it’s being left behind, everything sounds right.  The music is extremely well written, and so far every world has its own theme.  Even the menu has a different score!

I’m not really quite sure how to categorize this game.  It’s not a platform game because there aren’t really any platforms.  There are physics elements, but it’s certainly not a physics game in the traditional sense. And then there’s the whole digging feature ala Where’s My Water?  It’s certainly an interesting combination of game play mechanics, and it all actually meshes well to form an entertaining and surprisingly original game.  All I can say is, I’m really diggin’ it!

Overall Score: 9/10
App Store Link

This game was reviewed on an iPod Touch 4G running iOS 5.0.1.

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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.