Doodle Lab101 is an experiment in puzzle gaming that produces mixed results.
Doodle Lab101 isn’t sure whether it wants to be great or not. Taking the basic idea of Enigmo and running with it, Doodle Lab101 is full of great ideas, and a great premise to be a solid puzzle game. But like Bumps, Doodle Lab101 is riddled with small issues that prevent it from reaching the upper tiers of excellence.
The goal in Doodle Lab101 is to get colored balls that fall from a beaker into a container. Balls must go into the correct container by color. Each level has a goal number of balls to collect, and a maximum number you can “miss” either by having them fall into the incorrect colored container or simply falling off the sides. Some levels require absolute perfection, while most are more forgiving.
To get the balls into the containers, you’ll have to draw and erase lines to make paths the balls follow. Sometimes it’s as simple as drawing a shaft to contain them as they fall, while other times you’ll have to draw a path towards a warp portal, then another path from the portal’s exit to the goal. Some levels require you to carefully guide multiple colors, so you may want to encase one color while dealing with another. There’s no one solution to the game.
A timer counts down while you figure things out, and you’re scored based on how quickly you worked as well as any misses you had. Obviously, the better you play, the higher your grade.
The graphics in-game are simple, but they get the job done and most importantly, are very clear and easy to see. The three tools (draw, erase and push to help combine balls, more later) are easy to access, and you won’t ever pick the wrong one. The music is a very weird mix of synth, upbeat drums and techno, but it somehow fits Doodle Lab101 perfectly.
Don’t be afraid of the creepy scientist you see on the title screen, as he only pops up as a small icon when you finish a level. Still, someone somewhere along the line should have taken a look at this guy and realized that Halloween is only good until the end of October. Seriously, he will give you the willies.
Instead what you should be afraid of is the tutorial. It’s one of the most unhelpful, verbose pieces of manual I’ve seen in a game. Both hard to read and hard to understand, I spent a good five minutes trying to decipher it before I gave up and decided to learn as I went.
To be honest, that’s probably what you’ll be doing in Doodle Lab101. Later levels require you to combine colors to make new ones, then guide them to a goal. The colors, however, don’t follow any laws we know of for mixing pigment. For example, missing yellow and light blue makes dark blue. There is nothing that explains this; you just learn it as you go.
Progression in Doodle Lab101 is kind of designed to do this. You can sometimes face a bunch of levels in a row trying to make you do the same thing (such as two beakers of different colors with their containers on the opposite bottom side of the screen). You can have a good number of levels like this, then all of a sudden, be hit with an extremely difficult, completely unrelated puzzle. It felt odd, being groomed to worry about one type of challenge then get hit by a different one.
The biggest issue with Doodle Lab101 is one of control. You’d think that wherever you put your finger is where you draw and erase, but you’d be wrong. The icon sits about half and inch above where your finger goes. After a while you can work with this. However, the first few times playing Doodle Lab101 were exceedingly frustrating because I intuitively touched what I wanted to alter but nothing was happening.
Again, Doodle Lab101 doesn’t do anything exceedingly wrong, but isn’t quite polished enough to be considered a truly great title. There’s some fun stuff going on, and if you’re into puzzle games, certainly it’s worth checking out. It’s just a little rough around the edges. With a few updates, Doodle Lab101 could be one to watch.