Puppy’s Plaything Review

With not one but two hand-axes in their studio logo, you’d think smuttlewerk interactive would be better suited to a new strategy RPG than something as light and airy as Puppy’s Plaything (Out Now, $0.99, Lite)! Truth be told, however, the smuttlewerkers prove here that they’re no slouches when it comes to casual-friendly logic puzzlers.

The gist is that a rambunctious little dog is trying to get from a starting point to a ball in each of 57 levels. This is easier said than done because every level is its own skating rink and this puppy isn’t one to tiptoe carefully; you have to rely on solid obstacles and snow patches to stop it, and figuring out the right series of moves is a satisfyingly complex task. Movable ice blocks that inherit little doggie’s momentum and ramps that allow jumps over walls stir a little more depth into the game’s first level set.

But it’s in the second and third level sets where Puppy truly shines. Bats with a hankering for doggie blood and cracked ice add elements of danger that appeal to the action gamer’s sense of timing. It’s just too bad that it’ll take the average player a few hours to reach this point and realize the game’s full potential.

Puppy serves up an excellent multi-layered reward structure. Bonus levels unlock if you catch all the challenge chew toys strewn throughout a level set, while the bones you collect as you slide the puppy around are good for more than your score and level rating — they can be spent on a staggering variety of pup-friendly costumes. With regard to the bonus levels, I’d love to see a feature in updates that lets you know which levels contain missed chew toys. It can be a pain to check through all the levels in a set to track them down.

Sliding the dog along is as easy as swiping in one of the cardinal directions, and I like what smuttlewerk has done with the camera controls here. Pinching in and out gives you a smooth transition from side-scroller to birds-eye views of the game board, while a button spins the camera; between them you have a well structured way of getting whatever view angle you need.

Puppy’s production values come as a welcome surprise in the genre. Environments are very crisply rendered and the dog’s paws leave scratches over a level’s frozen surface, providing a visual record of every movement you’ve tried so far — that’s not just a nice touch, but actually handy sometimes. On the aesthetic downside, a single in-game music track wears out its welcome very quickly in such a long campaign.

iFanzine Verdict: If you’re into casual puzzle games and could go for a little action too, throw this dog a bone! You can’t go wrong with the free sampler, but you have to be willing to give the full version some time to reveal its full potential as an arcade/logic puzzle mashup.