Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Doughlings: Invasion (PS4)

The Doughlings franchise by Hero Concept is a sort of series of games with it's own unique lore that utilizes retro gaming genres as it's core gameplay element. This particular installment of the Doughlings series, for example, features a tale of the Doughlings being invaded by space invaders who aim to conquer the residents of the Doughling world through a sneaky preemptive meteor strike. They basically send down a meteor of mass destruction down to the Doughling planet to obliterate all existence there, but Dr. Morpheus finds out the plan, and launches a counter offensive against the would be invaders. Packing heat in the form of a color gun, and utilizing various personas, or abilities gained from elixir allocation Morpheus must make a stand or risk the very existence of his own kind. A story which is nicely packaged in comic book panel form with a spoken voice-over inclusive introduction at the start.

Much like the 'Space Invaders' of old you will be tackling waves of descending invaders through multiple stages that increase in difficulty as you continue onward. You control the Doughling doctor named Morpheus who acts as the slider ship replacement at the bottom of the screen, and must shoot down space invaders before they reach, and kill you. The catch is that in this take on the old 'Space Invaders' formula everything is a color coded ordeal, and how you are able to deal with the colored invaders is less than straightforward. The space invaders that invade in waves in each of the game's five stages come in a selection of colors that indicate how many hits they'll take before they are destroyed. Blue colored invaders are single hit enemies whereas red will take three hits to get down to blue. Basically going from red to yellow to green, and finally to blue. As you fire upon these invaders with your standard shot, and destroy them at blue they will drop 'Likes" power-ups which in turn powers up a spotlight. It takes a total of ten likes to power up a spotlight at which point you can activate a "Show Time" phase in which your color gun is activated, and can change a collection of nearby similar colored invaders to a lesser color or kill off a collection of blue invaders in one shot. Ultimately making the process of eliminating them all easier. Combo scoring can also be achieved in this manner as well as through successful shots landed without missing their target.

It goes without saying that completely clearing the waves in each multiple wave stage is the end goal. That being said there is a unique enemy flying back and forth behind all of the invaders in each given wave. A queen that can be shot down for elixirs which can be then spent on a selection of upgrades that play into Morpheus's abilities in-game. Initially you'll be upgrading the color gun. Things pertaining to shot amount, effectiveness, and longevity. As you progress different abilities like the line blasting laser shot can also be upgraded in overall performance as well. There are several tiers of upgrades available including 'Gunslinger', 'Armor', and a couple others that will be introduced gradually as different wave elements come into play. Things like dropping invader statues that are lethal upon impact, and other obstacles meant to keep you from clearing things so easily are included, but in such a way as to ease you into the rhythm of things. Of course properly upgrading personas is the key to seeing each stage through to the end. That, and rescuing caged Douglings which grants you an extra life. Seeing as lives are a one hit, and done deal maintaining as many lives as possible is the only way you can defeat each of the different difficulty settings. Difficulty settings that start off on normal, go to hard, and end with insane.

When it comes to the playthroughs each stage is shown on a map of progress points before the action begins. There are five stages in total. Each with several waves that allow for persona upgrades at the end. In the final wave you'll face off against a boss invader, and then be given a final score tally that takes in account various feat based factors for a final bonus score gift if you defeat it. As story focused, and as linear as this game is in it's progression it is a score based experience at heart. The good thing is that if you ever hit a "Game Over" you can continue near to where you last left off with that score still intact. Thus making the task of completing the game a little easier than it otherwise would be. Just know that normal difficulty is fairly challenging in, and of itself.

The Verdict ...

This game is a charming take on the old 'Space Invaders' classic. While it obviously borrows inspiration from said game it still manages to change up the formula enough to be it's own thing. On top of all that it gives a proper challenge. Even on normal difficulty. Visually, and sound-wise it is also very pleasing. The developer applied a sort of older style soundtrack that goes back to the 90's era of gaming soundtracks as well as visuals that themselves seem to be of that same 90's time period. Overall it's a quaint little game with a bit of retro nostalgia thrown in for good measure. Excellently executed, and added onto in such a way as to be truly inviting. A welcoming site for oldschool gamers like myself, and newer gamers alike. It gets the Gaming Inferno's seal of approval. Be aware though that this is not a large scale game, and that replay value is minimal compared to some shmups.

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