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Every so often, an indie game comes along that blends two different genres/mechanics into one with flawless execution, resulting in an elevated experience and oodles of fun.
Double Pug Switch is not that game.
Here, you play as a dog named Otis who’s been sucked into a dimensional portal—one that was accidentally opened by co-resident cat Whiskers. Otis is constantly running “to the right” as he chases after Whiskers, and as his player, you can only dodge oncoming obstacles in two ways: either by jumping or by swapping dimensions.
My copy of Double Pug Switch was provided by aPriori Digital, but my opinions in this review are my own and haven’t been influenced in any way.
Every level in Double Pug Switch has blue and orange environmental terrain, and depending on whether you’re Blue Otis or Orange Otis, you either collide into them or pass right through them. This color-switching mechanic has been done before (Ikaruga comes to mind), and it’s one that sounds pretty awesome on paper.
At the very least, the mechanic forces you to stay focused on the entire level as you run through it, constantly scanning around the screen to see what’s coming up and reacting to it. That need for split-second reactions and decision making is mainly what makes Double Pug Switch so hard.
And oh boy, is this game is hard.
Everything seems to be designed around the idea that the player’s dexterity—both physical and mental—ought to dictate success or failure. Not only do you need to switch dimensions, but you also need to jump from platform to platform while switching dimensions. And since jump height is based on how long you hold the button down, you have a good amount of control over your own endless-running destiny.
Unfortunately, that’s about as much praise as I can muster for Double Pug Switch.
I love skill-based games as much as the next guy. Competitive PvP games have always been my bread and butter, and I’ve always found something magical about games that challenge the player to grow, think, and improve.
Yet despite all of the skill-based trappings of Double Pug Switch, I can’t help but feel like there isn’t actually much room for expertise.
It’s not enough for a game to only be difficult. There has to be an appropriate learning curve, with plenty of room to explore game mechanics, and enough design space between all of the game’s features that the player can be forced to think in creative ways and apply the skills they’ve acquired in new ways across new situations for new solutions.
Double Pug Switch lacks all of that.
Dimension-switching is a cool concept, but the levels fail to do anything interesting with it. Jumping is a tried-and-true mechanic for platformers, and there’s actually a lot you can do with one-button gameplay (see Super One More Jump), but there’s nothing of note here. Coin collection feels tacked on and pointless, except as a way to get you replaying levels so you can acquire enough currency to unlock hats. Which don’t do anything.
Most of Double Pug Switch’s route to success comes down to meaningless repetition.
The endless running is fast enough that you can’t really plan ahead for what’s coming up; you barely have enough time to react as things come on screen. You’re going to die a lot—multiple times per minute—and you’re basically just trial-and-erroring your way through, memorizing when to jump and when to switch dimensions.
To me, that’s less difficulty and more tedium.
One could argue that this is the same as playing, say, Stepmania and needing to trial-and-error your way through insane step patterns via memorization. But the difference is that Stepmania (and Osu! and Super Meat Boy and most other successful die-and-repeat games) offer enough depth where success feels gratifying. Like you’re a badass. Like you’re a master.
You don’t get that in Double Pug Switch.
The most important thing for me? Double Pug Switch just isn’t fun.
I can’t remember the last time I played a game—one that asks for money up front—where I felt like I’d have more fun plucking the hairs off my leg. The whole time I was playing, I was really looking forward to when I’d be able to stop. Perhaps that was due to unmet expectations? The game’s concept sounded quite awesome when I first read its description, so perhaps my negative experience is colored by how far it fell short in execution (and how disappointed I am by that).
Nonetheless, I feel like I wasted my money… and I didn’t even pay for my copy! I hate to think how one might feel if they actually spent a few dollars on this game.