PHOGS! is an upcoming puzzle platform game from Coatsink Software and developed by Bit Loom Games. It stars a two-headed dog that goes around helping bizarre fantasy people by stealing their pizza, feeding the snake, and bringing joy in the form of light. It can technically be played by one person, but the best experience is with two, each player controlling one half.
Arthur: I barked a lot.
Dominick: I did too! Just like in Mario Kart games, you make noise when there’s nothing to use. In PHOGS! that’s when you have nothing to grab. It’s something for fun when you’re not actively solving the puzzles – which rely on how well you can stretch the creature’s body and grab things in sync with each other, as well as use the stuff you grab. In our demo, there were so many puzzles that revolved around grabbing light orbs.
Arthur: I noticed we were able to predict a puzzle solution without using emoticons. Wavelength!
Dominick: That’s a good point, but emoticons are a really good system for people who might be playing online or with language barriers. There’s also a hint emoticon that we did need a few times.
Arthur: Yeah, but I also think a game like this works best on the couch with a buddy next to you. Sometimes you can just look each other in the eye and nod, knowing what must be done.
Dominick: That’s true. I can see this being a game for people who have known each other for twenty years (oh man we’re old), but also a great game for bringing someone into the gaming fold. There are only three buttons for control – the joystick for movement, stretch, and grab. PHOGS! has some deep gameplay with simple mechanics. I love when that happens.
Arthur: I particularly liked the brain teasers that involved grabbing AND stretching. One involved grabbing a pole and holding on while the other player stretched and reached another, climbing up a hill. All while gusts of wind blew them back, causing rubbery body physics. It was quite comical to watch!
Dominick: Wiggle jiggle phiggle! But yeah, different worlds have their own puzzle mechanics which you learn over the course of about six stages in each. I love that they’re based on the three things all dogs love – eating, sleeping, and playing. We played the sleeping area in the demo, but I did try the playing world on the show floor. They were unique, and I can’t wait to see the eating world.
Arthur: The sleep world was cool. We had to find lights to make or demake pathways or platforms, depending on whether it was made of goop or glass. And we met a cool bug thing that played a dreamcatcher like a banjo. Very inventive!
Dominick: Yeah, PHOGS! is full of stuff like that. The music is super chill, even when it’s uptempo. Sometimes it’s relaxing synth. Sometimes it’s the good kind of fart music, like in EarthBound. Even the boss music is upbeat while the action is frantic. Speaking of, what a wild ride that thing was. The boss battles are like a full level in and of themselves, incorporating all of the mechanics we learned and cranking it up several notches.
Arthur: There are collectible gold bones the player can use to buy costumes, which include hats and a cat face. Some are tricky to find, requiring good teamwork. It’s perfect for completionists, and I’m happy the miscellaneous stuff isn’t locked behind microtransactions.
Dominick: PHOGS! is cool like that. It’s a complete experience that’s aimed at an audience that just wants to play a fun game. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Untitled Goose Game, and I hope it gets at least half the recognition as that one did. This is UCG, but with chaotic kindness instead of malice. It’s not for everyone, but I’m sure it’ll find its audience. You wanna talk about the demo presentation?
Arthur: We got to play PHOGS! in a small but comfortable hotel room.
Dominick: Tiny, like one of those capsule rooms.
Arthur: Very much so. The title’s representative, Kane, offered us water and answered any questions we had. He also took the time to show us the boss level because we completed so many stages during our demo limit.
Dominick: Apparently we’re really good at PHOGS! I forgot to take a water, but that’s ok. The show floor demo area was also amazing, with rubber puzzle mats, present box seats, and a PHOG! pupper puppet. I wound up spending a little more time there than I thought I would. I can’t wait to play the full game.
Let’s wrap this up with some final info. The devs are aiming at a June 2020 release, which is super soon. We played a nearly complete build at PAX, and it runs at a silky smooth 60 fps. PHOGS! is short for Physics Dogs, and because the portmanteau doesn’t work in Japanese, they just called it Inu Inu there, which is Dog Dog in English. Thanks again to the folks at Coatsink for having us! Woof woof!