When you think of iconic arcade games of the past, you’ll probably think of the likes of Mortal Kombat, Tetris, Super Mario and arguably, the most memorable: Space Invaders. Now imagine Space Invaders with a fresh lick of paint, and a 90s cartoon aesthetic and you have Doughling Invasion – A modern take on the fixed shoot-em-up genre.
While the original Space Invaders had very little plot outside of ‘there are aliens, shoot them down’, Doughling Invasion greets the player with a delightfully cartoonish comic book telling of its story. Following the events of Hero Concept’s last Doughlings game, Doughlings Arcade, the playable character, Dr Morpheus uncovers a plot to attack the planet of Doughlings and so arms himself to take down the alien threat. Yeah, it’s still essentially ‘there are aliens, shoot them down’, but it’s nice that a little bit of fluff has been added and there is a semblance of continuity connecting to the first game.
Anyone who has played Space Invaders or any of the Space Invaders inspired shooters that followed, will be instantly familiar with the gameplay of Doughings Invasion. You, the player, are fixed on the ground, able to move left and right, while oncoming swarms of aliens descend on you. You must shoot down each wave and prevent them from reaching the planet’s surface. Along the way you can collect powerups, additional lives, ‘likes’ or the currency used to fuel Dr Morpheus’ special ability, the colourgun.
It’s with its powerup, and special ability mechanics that Doughlings Invasion makes itself unique. Yes, other games have added these to their game, but Doughlings has a way of working it into its charm. Dr Morpheus’ powerup sees him equip the ‘colourgun’, a gun that matches up swarms of aliens based on their rank (blue is rank 1, green is rank 2 etc), and demotes them, making it easier to destroy larges groups of aliens. Doughlings powerup mechanic is perhaps more memorable, as it allows you to turn into a variety of powered up individuals, my personal favourite being the totally-not-cyclops-from-XMen ability which allows you to shoot lasers through entire groups – destroying towers of aliens in one fell swoop.
Perhaps the only downside to Doughlings Invasion is the repetitive nature of the genre. In my experience, games within the fixed shoot-em-up genre aren’t suited for particularly long sessions as there is little variety in the action on screen. Introducing new and more powerful enemies, abilities and powerups all help to break up the monotony of the gameplay, but only push back the inevitable – games like these lack the necessary variety to make them engaging for long periods of time. Enjoyable? Yes, 100%, but it can quickly become boring after a while.
That’s not to say I didn’t like my time with Doughlings Invasion. The nostalgic style to the whole game is extremely welcoming. From the 90s cartoon aesthetic in the art, to the beautifully retro music and sound effects. Hero Concept have nailed the experience of playing games from that era. The gameplay, while gets a little stale after a while, is fresh and innovative – the unique powerups and abilities help to add elements of skill and variety to the game.
Doughlings Invasion is a brilliantly nostalgic take on a game genre of yesteryear. It’s one that you could easily pick up and play for a while, but not one that would necessarily leave you wanting more. On the plus side, while I played this on PS4, I could 100% see myself buying this for the Nintendo Switch and enjoying it on long bus rides, or train commutes.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*