Your Doodles are Bugged! Review

The great thing about indie games is they’re encouraged to find interesting ways of making old games new again. Your Doodles are Bugged! is a good example of an old trope — the “Lemmings” type game, in which the player figures out how to help characters he or she doesn’t control to reach a goal by clearing a path — using the more newly popular “drawing” control method that’s seen a lot of action on mobile platforms like the iPad.

The trouble with Your Doodles Are Bugged is, while drawing paths between objects is somewhat novel and allows for creativity in solving the game’s many puzzles, the underlying AI that goes with the lemming characters, in this case bugs, is so twitchy that the game becomes incredibly frustrating.


Your Doodles Are Bugged (XBox360 [Reviewed], PC)
Developer: Spyn Doctor Games
Publisher: Spyn Doctor Games
Release Date: February 02, 2010
MSRP: $0.99

A little story plays out in Your Doodles Are Bugged as you move from puzzle to puzzle: a magic artist, Doodleus, has created several magic doodles, which is to say childlike drawings. His bumbling apprentice has accidentally slathered a big bowl of friendly bugs in the magician’s workroom with magical ingredients, and the bugs have ended up in the doodles. What this means to the player is that it’s your job to draw paths over these doodles to get the bugs to a goal in each level.

What makes Your Doodles Are Bugged kind of interesting is that all these doodle drawings, from swirls and stars to dragons and other objects, are passable as platforms. Bugs will trudge up the back of a dragon or drop into a drawing of a bowl. Creating a path between drawings to the end is what your pen tool is for, and it’s your only way of interacting with the bugs, which will walk forward basically until they hit a wall, then reverse. Bugs will also jump when they find a usable path in front of them, so you can create ramps and stairways with a little ingenuity to raise or lower bugs to their destinations.

As the game progresses, more mechanics get introduced, and things start to get interesting when your pen’s ink — basically your ability to draw paths and platforms — starts to become a limited resource. When this happens, you can only draw part of the path to the goal at a time, and it’s up to you to figure out how to house your bugs so you can erase the path behind them to get some ink back and use it to draw the path before them, without their getting lost, dying, or falling into someplace from which it would generally be irritating to retrieve them.

Each puzzle is judged by the time it takes to complete it, and this is really your only criteria for scoring, other than completing the puzzle itself. This is tracked both on local leaderboards and on Xbox Live or Steam boards, which adds a nice competitive edge to an otherwise relatively easygoing game. The bugs move really slowly and the doodles are generally pretty vast and expansive, so the game includes a speed control that lets you amp up the clock and the bug movement so you can do less waiting. There’s also an undo button if you make a mistake (although you don’t really need it, since it’s just holding one button to draw a line and another to erase it), and that really amounts to the end of your controls.

While the puzzle portions of Your Doodles Are Bugged are a nice idea, in practice they get pretty irritating. This is really because the bugs are totally uncooperative. They’re hard to control and will sometimes jump barricades, which is frustrating, but what’s more, they have a tendency to ignore their own rules. A bug will slip through gaps of only a pixel or two if you let them, or they’ll just tromp back and forth, deciding not to jump for the path you’ve clearly laid out for them.

They also have a tendency to get stuck in the game’s background doodles — the ones designed for you to utilize in the puzzles — and get stuck in infinite loops of trying to jump free or slide under a low overhang. This gets extremely frustrating, especially when there’s no avoiding it; lots of times, the bugs will react differently to a situation than you’d expect. Drawing a vertical wall as a barrier or a means of turning bugs back, for example, can be a trying experience if your line is at all fluttering. If it’s not straight vertical, the bugs will climb it, even if the step itself is tiny. And then you can find yourself screaming at the game as bugs leap to their deaths over the top of the barrier, forcing you to start a puzzle over again.

As puzzles become more difficult, one small screw-up in a drawing can mean starting fresh, and that’s exceptionally irritating. It can also mean wasting time trying to save a few bugs who have done something stupid, like getting locked in a doodle with no way out. These issues slow down the game and drain the fun out of the premise in a flash; more than once I wished I could just give up on a puzzle after burning 20 minutes on it, only to have the bugs find a hole or do something I didn’t expect.

Completing the roughly 40 puzzle levels opens up a few new content in other areas. There’s a level editor in which elements get added as the player clears through various levels, which is a nice touch and puts a lot of value behind this $10 purchase.

It’s hard to rag on Your Doodles Are Bugged because there is a lot that’s great about it. It’s friendly and good-natured, easygoing for the most part and carries a fun art style and a lot of great music. But for as Zen as the experience could have been, tiny imperfections drive up the frustration level to a point that’s just way too high. Being unable to predict how the bugs will react, and even having a 10 bugs surpass an obstacle just to have the next 10 butt up against it and do something completely stupid, or watching them get trapped in the game’s own backgrounds, gets old fast.

So download at your own risk. There’s a lot of solid content at $10 here and puzzle fans with more patience than I will have a fun time. If your blood pressure goes up at the thought of a game finding new and creative ways to stonewall you and waste your time, however, stay away.

Pros:

  • Cute art style
  • Smart, challenging puzzles
  • Great production values with fun music
  • Expansive level editor adds lots of replay value
  • Great price for amount of content available

Cons:

  • Can get incredibly frustrating
  • No mid-level save options
  • Bugs have a tendency to get stuck in the developer-designed obstacles
  • Irritating bugs don’t always react the way you’d think
  • A few misplaced pixels can be a big enough mistake to restart a whole level

Final Score: 70/100

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2 Comments on Your Doodles are Bugged! Review

Spyn Doctor

On May 15, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Hi!

Thanks for the review!
I just wanted to say that an update that allows for checkpoint saving is currently in development. This should mitigate the frustration after making a small mistake. A save-and-exit option (so that you can leave the game and later return to complete it) will also be added. Both will be released soon.
Also, I can assure you that the bugs do *never* ignore their own rules. ;-) Their rules are actually very simple and easy to figure out if you experiment a bit and watch how the bugs behave in different situations. Once you figure them out, controlling the bugs is a *lot* easier. But it is true that a measure of patience is required for this. :-)

Doc

Spyn Doctor

On May 15, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Correcting myself: Above I wrote “…leave the game and later return to complete it”. Of course I meant “leave the game in the middle of a level and later return to complete the level”. Of course already now the game will save your progress between levels. The new option will add mid-level saving.

Doc