Even after an update, the extraordinary aesthetic stylings of Pugs Luv Beats are still assuredly the game’s main draw. Though the cost of building your pugs’ empire has been re-balanced to require less waiting around, it still isn’t especially engaging to play. It’s hard to say that the game’s premise really has much potential for gripping gameplay, no matter how the developers tweak it. You’re going to be waiting (which is to say: not really playing) sooner or later.
The one overt addition is that they’ve made a mini-game out of the theremin-like instrument that you could play with before, as you inevitably waited for your pugs to luv more beats. It’s not great, but at least it’s something. It plays kind of like a variation on the arcade classic Missile Command, with a projectile coming out of the singing pug towards where you tapped the screen. When the projectile, a heart, gets to where you tapped, it starts expanding. If you get the projectile to hit a bouncing capsule enough to drain its shields, you get some beats out of it. It’s not very much fun, but it does give you something else to do while you’re waiting for more beats.
There’s a little more to Pugs Luv Beats now, but only a little more. It’s still a much better music toy than it is a game.
The iTunes page for Pugs Luv Beats dares you to ‘name one other game which lets you dress up pugs in hats to make music.’ We certainly can’t think of any, and Pugs Luv Beats is unquestionably a unique piece of software. However, it’s not easy to call it a good game.
The beginning of Pugs Luv Beats introduces you to the plight of the titular pugs. These are most assuredly not your grandfather’s pugs. Rather, these are crazy-looking space pugs. Now, these pugs have gone and blown up their home planet after giving a Beat a little too much Luv, a problem we’ve all had from time to time. So, now they’re trying to rebuild their society on various planets, and it’s your job to give them a hand.
When you boil down the mechanics, it seems most appropriate to call Pugs Luv Beats a simple strategy game. The core mechanic is building homes for pugs to run out of to go harvest beats, which you direct them to by laying down nodes for them to run between. Your pugs will run across various types of terrain, and you’ll need to give them appropriate costumes to traverse these planets most effectively.
Here’s the hook, though: the pugs’ running and harvesting creates music. Pretty good music, too. It’s typically interesting when a game has a procedurally-generated soundtrack, and Pugs Luv Beats is no exception. Combine this with a unique and charming graphical style, and you’ve got a game that’s very pleasant to the senses.
It’s not very much fun to play, though. The actual exploration of the planets the game puts in front of you is pretty enjoyable, but you spend an inordinate amount of time just waiting for your space pugs to harvest beats. Even though that sounds like the premise of a FarmVille-like game, that’s not how Pugs Luv Beats works. You need to have the game running for your pugs to be productive, and jamming on the game’s theremin-style instrument while you wait to buy another planet can only be entertaining for so long.
The logic behind which sounds come out of the game isn’t readily apparent, but if you’re willing to figure it out or simply want an unusual music toy, there’s definitely some fun to be had with Pugs Luv Beats. However, as a game it mostly comes across as a half-baked Tiny Tower-like experience with no in-app purchases, for better or worse.