(Mini) Game Review: Wobbledogs

I’m very much a dog person. I have a really annoying, but awesome and loveable mutt myself. Put a dog in a game and I’m instantly interested. Do you know what I don’t like? Virtual pet games. Wobbledogs, from developer Animal Uprising and publisher Secret Mode is a dog-based virtual pet game, so this should be interesting.

“A 3D pet simulation where you raise your own personal hive of mutating dogs, physically simulated all the way down to their guts! Wobbledogs is a casual and chill sandbox for players of all ages who want to care for their very own virtual pets in a surprising, unique, and stress-free environment.”

The quickest way to describe Wobbledogs is to imagine Nintendogs crossed with Viva Piñata. Yes, you’re raising and looking after dogs, but these pooches aren’t your ‘normal’ four-legged friends. You won’t see a Golden Retriever, German Shepherd or even a Dachshund here. The canines of Wobbledogs are a bit more, well… ‘wobbly’. Bizarre animals that share a lot of traits with a household dog, but also have this tendency to look like something from  aSalvador Dali fever dream.


There’s a  brief tutorial that introduces you to the controls and very bare basics of the game. Then, you’re left to play and experiment with the dog’s DNA. What you feed these Wobbledogs will change how they look and act. You can cross-breed, play around with their genetics and the end result can be as funny as it can be terrifying. The bright pastel colours and overly cute graphics steer this one from veering into horror territory. But still, you can create dogs with (basically) ‘deformities’ that would make David Cronenberg green with envy.

Do you want dogs with elongated bodies, multiple legs (I mean more than the usual 4), dogs with mismatched legs, tiny heads and more? You really are creating mutant dogs and if this had more realistic graphics, it would be one of the most visually disturbing games I have ever played because you can really create some true abominations. Everything takes place in a simulation, so not of this is ‘real’, which does take some of the sting out of the monsters that you are responsible for.


There is no story to follow, but Wobbledogs does come with some basic goals to reach for. You can build and customise the dog’s living area, unlock new items and cosmetics and train them to do simple tricks like sit and roll over. Other than that, this is all about messing around with genetics to make the most abnormal and peculiar dogs that you can.

With a £16 price tag and out now for PC and all the consoles, Wobbledogs is very hit-and-miss. As I said at the start of this review, I don’t really like virtual pet games, but I can appreciate them. The trouble with Wobbledogs is that there isn’t a lot to do. You mess around with the genetics and create new dogs, you unlock items and cosmetics, and that’s it. You do actually do anything with the dogs themselves. You can’t take them outside and interact with the world, everything takes place in the location where you create these things. There is no main goal, no dog show where you could try to breed the most insane dog or whatever. No NPCs to interact with or even the chance to show off your creations to other players. Wobbledogs needs something to give it a lift and a reason for you to play.


I’ve been playing the Xbox version and the controls are very imprecise too. Trying to do something as simple as picking up an item is very fiddly and needs pixel-perfect precision. You can tell that this was designed for  PC or touchscreen play. Overall, Wobbledogs plays more like a distraction that you would find in a bigger game, over being its own thing. There is just not a lot of playability here and it soon becomes very tiresome. It’s certainly a very chilled and relaxed game, and that’s a good thing. There’s just not really a great deal to enjoy.

Game Review: Little Orpheus

Cinematic platformers, they’ve come a long way since 1989’s Prince of Persia. We’ve had some great titles in the genre too, with some very memorable characters. Little Orpheus is a (kind of) new cinematic platformer from developer The Chinese Room and publisher Secret Mode. But what is it all about and is it any good? Well, it’s a good job I have a review of the game right here. 

It is a bit of unfortunate and unforeseeable timing that this Russian themed game is being released now, what with the ongoing situation. Still, don’t decide to go all ‘anti-Russian’ just yet. Keep an open mind, especially seeing as the devs are actually English.

The year is 1962 and NASA are trying to put a man on the moon. In a remote corner of Siberia, a Soviet cosmonaut is heading in the other direction. Comrade Ivan Ivanovich is dropped into an extinct volcano in his exploration capsule, Little Orpheus, to explore the center of the earth. He promptly vanishes.

Three years later he emerges claiming to have saved the world. He has also lost the atomic bomb powering the Little Orpheus. He is taken to a top-secret bunker deep below the Ural mountains to be debriefed by the fearsome General Yurkovoi, a man so frightening even Stalin won’t buy him a drink. The General rolls up his sleeves, fixes Ivan with a steely glare and say “So… where have you been comrade? And where is my bomb?” And Ivan looks him right back in the eye and says “Well General, you might not believe what happened to me, but I’ll do my best. Because it happened like this…”


Little Orpheus was actually released back in 2020 for Apple Arcade. However, the game is now seeing a new release on, well everything really. Not only is this new release now on all consoles and PC, it has been given a fresh lick of paint too. New textures and animations. New graphics, lighting effects and more. The original game was released in episodes, this new release is the whole game in one go, as well as a bonus episode. 

You play as Ivan Ivanovich a Soviet cosmonaut who is sent on a top-secret mission. Not into space but into the centre of the Earth. Little Orpheus is the name of the capsule he was sent into the centre of the Earth in, which was powered by an atomic bomb. With no contact comrade Ivanovich was believed to be MIA but he emerges three years later and claims to have saved the world. Whilst being questioned by General Yurkovoi as to what happened and where the atomic bomb has gone, Ivan Ivanovich tells of his fantastical adventure.


In terms of the story and presentation, Little Orpheus is an absolute joy. There is a wonderful sense of humour running all through the game that definitely made me laugh several times. Ivan Ivanovich is such a well fleshed out character, that he becomes such a pleasure to play as. The game is told in flashback with the current time being depicted via a 1960s black & white TV with General Yurkovoi questioning and not believing Ivanovich’s story. These elements are used in between chapters to tell the story. But the main meat of the game, the platforming action, is shown in glorious, full colour. And ‘glorious’ is the correct word to use too.

The graphics of Little Orpheus are absolutely stunning. Wonderfully detailed and beautiful environments that use bright and vibrant colours. This is a very attractive juxtaposition over the black & white structure for the framing of the story. You go from the monochrome world of ‘current’ Russia with General Yurkovoi interrogating Ivan Ivanovich, to the eye-catching and flamboyant centre of the Earth where the gameplay takes place. The humorous story is told via some really great voice acting and the music really adds to the episodic nature of the game’s original release and its 60s setting. As this was originally an episodic game, you get these little ‘interruptions’ between levels that feel like they have fallen right out of a 1960s film serial. This game just oozes atmosphere and style. 


The levels themselves are also delightfully varied. From dinosaur roaming environments to snowy tundras. You’ll find yourself in the belly of a giant whale, exploring an arid desert and ancient ruins. Each of the levels is distinctly unique in how they look and they really are a feast for the eyes.

However, the gameplay elements are ‘lacking’, for want of a better word. The trailer up there really does make Little Orpheus out to be much more action-packed than it really is. Given that the developers behind this are the same that brought us titles like Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, you know, walking simulators. Little Orpheus feels less action-platformer and more like a 2.5D walking simulator. The mechanics used here are nothing new or innovative. You have bare basic platforming, some vine/rope swinging. Extremely light puzzle-solving like pushing/pulling blocks to reach higher areas, flicking switches to move platforms and the like. As varied as the visuals for each level are, nothing ever really changes or challenges you from a gameplay perspective. 


For instance, there is a part where you have to outwit a T-Rex by hiding behind foreground scenery and move when it looks away. You’ve seen this kind of low-level ‘stealth’ in hundreds of games before. Now, there is nothing wrong with that in and of itself. Then, on another level, you do the exact same thing but while trying to avoid the gaze of spotlights. See, while the levels are wonderfully varied, the gameplay never adapts to that variety. You do the exact same mild platforming, the exact same block moving, the exact same switch flicks in each and every level. No, being honest, there are a couple of levels where things do change up slightly. There is an underwater level where the ‘gravity’ is different and allows you to jump further and higher. There is some much-needed variety in the last level of the game, that I won’t spoil here. The bonus episode at the very end of the game even throws in a side-scrolling shooter element. That variety is severely lacking for 90% of the game though and you will just repeat the same old actions over and over. 

Now, I don’t want this to seem like a negative review. I’m just pointing this out to make it clear that this isn’t as all-out action as the trailer makes it seem. There are parts of the game where you just walk from left ro right (occasionally right to left) and have to listen to the narrative being told. This is not a bad thing as the story here is really damn great and the voice acting really sells it too. It’s just not the action-platformer it first seems to be. It is a 2.5D walking simulator and as long as you know that going in, you won’t be disappointed.


In terms of the story, the narrative, the presentation, the humour and all, Little Orpheus is brilliant, it really is. It is just that the gameplay is very light and massively repetitive. The variety of the levels greatly outweighs the lack of depth to the gameplay itself. £10 is how much Little Orpheus is going to cost you and that is a fantastic price point. For your money, you get nine chapters… most of which are similar to the last in terms of gameplay. You get a wonderfully realised world to play in. You get a brilliant and often funny story. To get to the end credits, you are looking at about four hours or so. Once you do finish a level, you can go back and look for hidden orbs, which you can use to unlock new (often comical) outfits for Ivan Ivanovich to wear, this adds a little repeatability and could keep completionists happy for a few more hours but other than that, there is little here to keep you busy.


Little Orpheus has some amazing moments for sure. You cross paths with Laika, one of the first animals sent into space, as an example. As great as those moments are and as wonderful as the story and setting are, the gameplay is a little too shallow and things don’t really get interesting in that regard until the last couple of levels. I say that Little Orpheus is worth the £10 asking price. It may not be highly unique, it may not have the most intriguing or innovative gameplay. But I sure did enjoy my journey from the start until the end credits. It is the world the game takes place in, the humorous story, the charming main character that really sells this game. Little Orpheus is definitely worth a playthrough, just as long as you go into it with the right frame of mind.

Game Review: Zool Redimensioned

Back in the early nineties, there was a bit of a battle to create an iconic gaming mascot… especially within the platforming genre. Nintendo already had their moustachioed Italian plumber from New York with Mario. Sega had hit the ground running with the Blue-blur that was Sonic. The consoles were well catered for and housed some of the most endearing platform gaming characters ever. However, the home computers of the day were lagging behind in that regard. A few developers tried to introduce a new gaming mascot, there was Team 17 with SuperfrogA couple of years before that though (but slightly after Sonic had been unleashed), Gremlin Interactive introduced their new character, Zool.

Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension was an attempt to bring console-style platforming action to the Amiga 1200. In fact, Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension was bundled with the then newly released Amiga 1200 computer. The game saw ports to other home computers and even some of the consoles later too. Long story short and twenty-nine years after the game’s original 1992 release, it has been remade. From developer Sumo Digital Academy (a wonderful academy giving young coders the chance to make games) and publisher Secret Mode comes Zool Redimensioned

But is it any good? Well, that is why I’m writing this review. But before I do get into it, I just want to very quickly cover how I felt about the original game back in 1992. It was a distinctly average platformer game with some really annoying flaws. Of course, we Amiga owners lapped it up back then, because it was the closest thing we could get to playing Sonic the Hedgehog without having to buy a Mega Drive. As a game, Zool just lacked the polish and style that the far superior console platformers were doing at the time. The main selling point of Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension was that it was fast, that was why it was often considered the Amiga’s answer to Sonic the Hedgehog. As someone who wasn’t much of a fan of Sega’s then-new mascot and the Sonic game… it was still far better than Zool.

So anyway, how is this remake? It plays pretty much how I remember the original playing almost three decades ago. It still has those bright and colourful graphics. The levels are still based on things like sweets and music. You control Zool with ease, a button to jump, one to attack and one for your special spinning move. This really is basic stuff and I don’t mean that in a negative way. This is all that is really needed from a game like this, it’s not overly complex so it doesn’t need a complex control scheme. If you have ever played any 16-bit (or even 8-bit) platformer, then you already know what you are getting into with Zool Redimensioned. Run around the levels, pick up stuff for points, jump on or shoot enemies, get to the end of the level, kill boss, move onto the next area. Zool Redimensioned doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, it has just put some nice sparkly additions on the spokes.


One of the main gripes over the original Amiga version was that the screen always felt too small. Because it was in the 4:3 aspect ratio and Zool was a speedy little character, you would often get caught out by things just off the screen as you couldn’t see more than two inches in front of the character. Thankfully this remake fixes that by having a widescreen format, so you can actually see what is happening on the screen all the time. The graphics are (obviously) nicer too, high def and all that. Yet they still retain that original look. Zool also has a double jump now, very handy for any platforming game. Also, another niggle with the original was that to finish a level, you had to collect all (or most) of the items on each level to progress. This was a massive pain in the arse as it really slowed you down and broke up the momentum, ruining the speed of the game that was supposed to rival Sonic at the time. This remake does away with that and the collectables are just there for score. Go and collect them all if you really want but you don’t have to.

However, Zool Redimensioned does come with two difficulty settings. There is the normal mode, which plays just as I described up there. Or you can opt for Ultimate Ninja mode. Here, you lose the double jump and have to collect everything on the level to progress. It’s a nice little addition as you get the best of both worlds. You can play the better and more enjoyable normal mode, or you can go old school and be taken back to the more annoying, 16-bit, original mode.


There is something to be said about a game with a bright and colourful graphical art style like Zool Redimensioned and that thing is… it all looks a bit too ‘messy’. It can be hard to tell what is an enemy and what’s just background detail. Things blend into other things and nothing is ever truly defined. Spikes in one area look like spikes, so you know to avoid them. But move on to a new area (the toy one springs to mind right now) and the spikes don’t look like spikes at all. So you think you can jump on them, only to be dealt some damage. Some worlds have enemies that look like platforms and platforms that look like enemies… the music-themed one is a right bitch for this. As I say, it’s all a bit ‘messy’ and while that kind of worked back in 1992, it really doesn’t now.

But the main issue with Zool Redimensioned is that the gameplay itself has just has not evolved. Yeah I know, the devs are trying to recapture that 16-bit platforming and they have, perfectly. But as I said earlier in this review, I was never a big fan of the original game. This remake doesn’t move things on at all. There are a few new additions sure, but under all of that, this is still a very ‘meh’ game, just like the original.

For me, I think the best way to sum this one up is that it’s a pretty good remake of a distinctly okay-ish game. The team at Sumo Digital Academy have done the best they could with the material given. The changes and additions to this remake over the original are an improvement… just. The widescreen is far better, the fact you now don’t have to collect everything on a level to advance, etc. It’s all good, great in fact and I doff my cap in respect to everyone at Sumo Digital Academy for their efforts. But… it’s still just Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension, which I never much liked back then. 


So, is this worth buying? For me on a personal level? No, not at all. There are better and more creative indie platformers out there right now. If I wanted to bring some Amiga classics back, Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension would be very low on the list. But if you were a huge fan of the original game(s)? Yes, I recommend it to those people, very much so. This really is a perfect slice of Zool action and I think fans will really enjoy playing this superior version. The additions and tweaks work well and they do make the game more playable than it was back in 1992.