Who wins the battle between Doodle God and iOS Devil?

, | Game reviews

I hate Doodle God for a couple of reasons. First and foremost is that I’m playing it on the iPad, where it’s festooned with ad pop-ups, rating nags, ingame purchases to circumvent the gameplay, and buttons that look like they’ll take me to some cool feature, only to shunt me into the App Store to buy some other game by developer Joybits. And this is the full paid version. Like so many (all?) other iOS games, Doodle God is a business model first, a game second.

After the jump, let me tell you the second reason I hate Doodle God.

I feel like I’m playing a bad adventure game (Is “bad adventure game” redundant? Can I get a rimshot?). I’m just trying to combine any two objects in the hopes that I’ll shake something loose. Let’s see, alcohol and a Phoenix. Nothing. Stone and wind. Nope. Weeds and a fish. Nada. Now I’m doing it semi-mathematically, working my way through the various categories, trying each thing with literally every other thing. Start with air and work my way through the elements. Brute force comboing.

This is gameplay in Doodle God. You simply match two things, and sometimes they make a third thing. Then you can match that third thing with something else to make yet another thing. This is nothing new. My friend played something called Zed’s Alchemy with his son, which was pretty much the same thing. Matching things. Stuff as building blocks to other stuff, as pointless and entertaining as a dime-store magic trick. Watch me add this water to this earth. Voila! Clay! I apply a little fire and now, ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, I give you: bricks!

This might look like something cute to divert your inquisitive six-year-old. It’s not quite that, despite the exaggerated cartoon God hovering benevolently over a cartoon planet on the App Store page. If you turn a kid loose in Doodle God, you might have to field questions such as “What’s an alcoholic?”, “What does lust mean?”, “Why does a warrior plus a human equals blood?”, and the time-honored classic, “What is sex?” Props to Doodle God for going full-on PG-13 and Apple’s App Store page for including a detailed ratings system for parents.

So here I am dragging my finger back and forth across the iPad’s glass, smudging it with swathes of inevitable finger grease, hoping something is going to happen. At least Scribblenauts knew I’d be doing these crazystupid grasping-at-straws combos and it provided cute pictures while I flailed about. No such luck in Doodle God. It sits stoic and impassive, occasionally suggesting I use one of the hints I’m afraid to use in case I hit a brick wall that requires real-world money to buy more hints. I already paid a fair price for you, Doodle God. You’re not getting any more of my money. Drag, drag, drag, drag. Dear god, please let something — anything! — happen.

And then something clicks and it all makes sense. Of course life plus a golem equals a human being! Why didn’t I think of that? Doodle God is smart, after all, and I’m the dummy. Now I’ve got a half dozen new combos that make perfect sense, many of which lead to more combos, either looping back to the early game or segueing into a new later-game stage. I have shaken something loose with a satisfying rattle and all is forgiven, Doodle God.

These moments are plentiful enough that I’m resigned to the godawful business model slathered over Doodle God like thick stinking slime. Maybe it’s better on the PC (based on the user reviews on Steam, it’s not). I also appreciate that it’s not just a sandbox. Sure, the main game is a planet where you make pretty much everything. Many of the things show up as a graphic embellishment of the planet. They don’t often make sense. Why are the planks I’ve researched just sprawled out on a random island in the middle of the ocean? Some of them do make sense. The corpse I made by combining fire and a human — oops — is situated in the Arctic wasteland where it presumably succumbed to the cold. The wheat I made by combining seeds and fields sprouts from the fields, which spread out next to the huts I made by combining stone with humans. The whale I made by combining fish and plankton surfaces out of the blue sea. So they’re not Scribblenauts level pictures, but they’re still pictures. I’m the eponymous doodle god, populating this planet with my invented stuff.

In addition to this broad sandbox world of elements, nature, technology, and the supernatural, Doodle God includes themed sets with specific goals. Get a castaway off a desert island. Research the greatest hits of Ancient Egypt. Fight a war between good and evil. These sideshows are a great place to go when you get stuck, until you get stuck again, at which point go to another sideshow, or maybe back into the broad sandbox world with a few new ideas. Okay, maybe I don’t hate Doodle God, after all. Ultimately, it’s better than the business model it’s steeped in.

  • Doodle God

  • Rating:

  • iOS
  • In this addictive, ALL ages (uhh...), puzzle game mix and match different combinations of fire, earth, wind and air to create an entire universe! As you create each element watch your world come alive (well...) as each element animates (uh, no) on your planet. The new Planet mode offers a new challenging way to create a universe of your dreams (assuming you have dreams about dragging a million combos together hoping something happens).
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