Updated: Doodle God Review

Episode 3 of Doodle God just hit the App Store, bringing with it a minigame and a new Modern Age pack that raises the item count to 196, spanning 21 categories. If they keep this up, they’ll either have to start worrying about screen space, or bring the game to the iPad.

The Modern Age pack is made up of technological things, like televisions, computers, and cell phones. We had a lot of fun figuring out (or stumbling upon) how to unlock the new items. In addition to the Modern Age pack, they also include a small Cocktail Bar pack that lets you mix drinks, which we found to be a smart use of the gameplay mechanic.

For some reason the delightful chorus that belted out “Hallelujah” when you discovered a new item has been replaced by a voice with a British accent. When you get three or four attempts wrong, he either scolds you or gives you words of encouragement. This seems like overkill to us, and it’s made worse because he repeats himself very frequently. We ended up turning the sound way down.

The minigame is called MatchTrix, and it’s unlocked when you invent Games. You can only invent Games when you reach Episode 3, which happens once you’ve unlocked about 150 items. MatchTrix is a Tetris -like game, where elements fall from the top of the screen and you can drag them where you’d like them to land. To make them disappear you must connect elements that will form a new element. The game is fun for a round or two, but it didn’t hold our attention.

Even though Doodle God gets tougher and somewhat more annoying as you play (because the combination options increase exponentially), we still had fun working through and discovering the new items in the Modern Age pack. And if you get stuck and don’t want to wait around for a hint, just Google “Doodle God walkthrough” for help. You’ll find plenty of it.

Have you ever had too much of a good thing? Felt like death after a night of partying, wanted to vomit after a Thanksgiving meal? With its latest update, entitled Episode 4, Doodle God has become something like that. This content injection brings the total number of elements to 248, spread across 26 categories. They’ve also added OpenFeint integration and a “Save the Princess” quest. The game is big. Unfortunately, bigger isn’t always better.

The problem is that Doodle God has reached a tipping point, where it becomes less appealing the bigger it becomes. Why? The game is based almost entirely on guessing. You start out with only a few elements, so discovering new ones is very manageable and fun. But now that we have hundreds of elements, searching for new combinations feels like a grind, like work. Making matters worse, in order to play the new “Save the Princess” quest, you have to beat Episode 4.

We’re not going to subtract from our overall score of Doodle God, because when you first start out, it’s a fresh and unique experience. But once your element list gets into the hundreds, it becomes overwhelming even for people who have been playing since its release.

If Episode 5 rolls around, we don’t want to see any new elements added unless they come up with a better way to manage them. Also, the minigames and quests should be open to everyone, no matter how many elements they’ve discovered. Games shouldn’t feel like work, but that’s exactly what Doodle God has become.

Doodle God is more like one of those impromptu games you play with siblings on long car rides than it is a typical videogame. Like “I Spy,” the rules in Doodle God are broad, and scoring points requires a lot of thinking, guessing, and wild stabs in the dark. But that’s why it’s full of surprises– and fun.

The premise of Doodle God is extremely simple. You play as God at the dawn of time, and your goal is to create as much stuff as possible. To kick things off, you have four elements to work with: earth, fire, air, and water. By mixing these together, you create new elements, like lava (earth plus fire) and steam (air plus water). Now you can combine these with with the others to build an expanding collection of stuff.

Please refrain from putting the cat in the boiler.

The catch– of course there’s a catch!– is that not all combinations work. You’ll have to use your creativity, the game’s hints, and simple guesswork to unearth all of the content in the game.

At the top of the screen you can see how many groups and elements you’ve discovered out of the total number possible. The game becomes more challenging as you go along, because having more elements to choose from means that more possible pairings are available. In fact, once you’ve discovered enough elements, you’ll inevitably put two together you’ve already paired. When this happens, instead of saying that you’ve already discovered the resulting element, the game shows the element again (though no points are awarded), and you’re booted back to the main list. This becomes aggravating after a while.

Another issue is that the icons shift when you tap an element group. If you want to try combining something in the microbe group with something in the death group, you’ll have to tap the microbe icon, wait for the icons to shift, then find the death icon and tap it. It’s a small annoyance that could have been avoided with a few design tweaks. On the other hand, the game’s interface is extremely intuitive, so there’s hardly any learning curve at all.

Directions so simple, they fit on one screen.

The visuals in Doodle God are also superb. While the game is nothing more than a series of menus, the art style is distinctive and visually interesting. The audio is equally pleasant. When you create a new element, you’re rewarded with one of several versions of a choir belting out a sing-song “Halleluja!” The game feels downright biblical.

If you get stuck and can’t find any more matches, there’s a hint system to help you out. Sometimes it’ll show you a new element and leave it up to you to figure out how to create it. Other times it’ll show you two groups and say that matches between the two have yet to be made. We found this to be just the right amount of help, because puts nudges you toward a match, but doesn’t take away the sense of accomplishment from finding it.

Explaining Doodle God doesn’t do the game justice. There’s a lot to discover and a ton of fun to be had just by tapping around and trying out different combinations. And for you penny-pinchers, the developers say there’s more content on the way in the form of free updates. So if you get hooked by gotta-find-‘em-all gameplay, give Doodle God a shot. You’ll be a believer in no time.

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