Hands-on: PHOGS!

Hands-on: PHOGS!

by February 28, 2020

You can’t keep us away from this one. 2020 marks our third year in a row covering the adorable two-headed-dog puzzle game PHOGS! at PAX East, and it also marks the year that the game will finally see release! We went hands-on with a near-final demo build of the game to see what’s new, and we can confirm that there will be plenty of stretchy-pup action for you to enjoy.

PHOGS! is, at its core, a puzzle game with a double-headed legless dog as its protagonist, which should honestly be enough to convince you to give it a look. Each end of your dog friend is controlled independently; in single-player mode, each analog stick on your controller controls a head, while in cooperative mode, each player gets their own head to take charge of. The dogs are connected by a stretchable belly, allowing them to cover large distances while remaining attached to each other. Some of the interactions that result from this are obvious – pull a level, swing on handles, stretch out to reach switches that both dogs must hit at once – but many puzzles utilize this mechanic in more ambitious ways, with many of the demo’s challenges revolving around one dog grabbing or holding onto something while the other reacts accordingly.

There’s lots of variations on this theme. One dog might eat a hot pepper, for example, turning the other dog into a temporary flamethrower that can cook corn kernels and make them popcorn. One dog latching on to a water pipe turns the other into a fire hose, allowing nearby flowers to bloom and serve as springboards to new areas. One dog grabbing a ball of light makes the other dog a flashlight, which can break down barriers of darkness and create light bridges. Across the demo’s three areas, many new twists on this mechanic are introduced in creative ways, and we anticipate the final product to be even more promising in this regard.

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None of this even considers the presentation style, which is all kinds of adorable. The game is awash in soft, cute, pastel-drenched graphics, making the world of PHOGS! feel approachable for anyone. The dogs themselves make use of a simplistic but endearing design; side characters in the game always want to pet the dogs, and you can’t really fault them for that. You can make the dogs yip and bark at will, too; they will hop around when you do so, making an already cute action even more irresistible. Other denizens of this world, aptly called Shapes, are just as quirky – imagine a traffic cone with a propellor hat or a happy, hammer-headed creature reminiscent of Katamari Damacy. The visuals and presentation elevate PHOGS! as an experience and help give it its very distinct personality, something that is best enjoyed in motion with friends on-hand.

PHOGS! has steadily increased its booth presence at shows like PAX East thanks to rising interest levels from gamers and press alike. The concept, crazy as it sounds on paper, translates to a unique and engaging co-op experience once a controller is in your hand, and we’ve seen lots of positive player response on the show floor over the years. Thanks to an inviting visual style and intriguing gameplay, players of all ages can get in on the fun, and publisher Coatsink promises a difficulty curve that accommodates this all-ages approach. For years, con-goers have wondered when they can bring this experience home; now, there’s a light at the end of this tunnel…probably because one of the dogs is holding that light ball.

PHOGS! finds its forever home on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC later this year.