How to Make a Dragon
After several games and several million downloads under their belt, JoyBits has returned with their first new game in the Doodle series in over two years. The original Doodle God staked its claim in the gaming world by having players combine two different elements in order to create a third, and then using that third to create a fourth, and so on until a rich and resource-filled world materialized right before their very eyes. While Doodle Kingdom builds upon this tried and true formula with a fresh thematic twist, the game also tries a few new things to usher in this latest era in the Doodle universe as well.
This time around, there are an initial 116 elements to discover across 13 different categories, and if you’re a fan of any Doodle game before it, then the odds are you’ll feel right at home in this one. Things start out simple enough, with your typical “Human + Forest = Berries and Lumber” equations, until the main draw of Doodle Kingdom begins to kick in: the medieval fantasy elements! Given its name, the game has an inherently medieval theme, and a lot of the elements you’ll discover fit into this mold perfectly: from Golems and Dwarves, to Catapults and Forges, to even Unicorns and a Pegasus. It’s certainly a breath of fresh air for the game and the series, and one that really ramps up the challenge by forcing you to push your imagination to its limit (related: if anyone knows what the heck a Unicorn can be combined with, you know where to reach me).
Luckily, Doodle Kingdom implements a fairly attractive hint system so you’re never stuck for too long, with lots of good incentives to spend currency on more of these nudges in the right direction, but never any hard requirements to do so. There are three different forms of hints you can choose from in the main game: ones that reveal an element that can be created from your existing ones; another that shows two categories which currently have an undiscovered reaction between them; and a third which automatically makes a random elemental pairing for you. Each one has its own addicting benefits, and daily rewards for playing will keep your pockets full of currency to purchase more by the bundle.
But besides the main and expansive “Genesis” mode that makes up the bulk of the game, my favorite part of Doodle Kingdom actually wound up being the smaller “Quest” mode. There are three of these quests to be found in the game, which are unlocked by discovering a Castle, a Necronomicon, and a Dragon, respectively. Each quest offers a bite-sized version of the main element-matching gameplay, with a more streamlined goal and manageable system of items. For instance, in the “How to Train your Dragon” quest, players will need to build nests and hatch eggs for four different types of dragons, starting out with only a few sparse elements of nature to work with. Unfortunately, there’s no apparent reward for actually completing one of these quests, and given their relative quick completion requirements, it won’t be long before players finish them all.
So that leaves the third and final mode of Doodle Kingdom, and admittedly it’s kind of a grab-bag. I would describe the “My Hero” mode as a strange auto-endless running RPG hybrid of sorts. Your hero is constantly running along a creature-filled path, even if you step away from the game for a while, and you’re encouraged to check in on regular intervals to keep him stocked with health potions or to upgrade his gear with all of those experience points he’s been racking up on his journey. The graphics in this mode are especially nice, and some of the monsters your hero will encounter (like a giant octopus-crab beast with wings) only reinforce the game’s wonderful sense of imagination.
Even so, the “My Hero” mode seems like an odd addition to the overall Doodle Kingdom experience, as it feels more like a bonus mini-game, rather than something that builds off the series’ traditional core gameplay. And alas, this brings me to my main concern about the total package in general: with one mode that’s so hit-or-miss, and another that can be completed in mere minutes, what kind of long-lasting replay value will a game like this have? It certainly had me wondering if everything included in the game was enough to call it a full-fledged app, as opposed to just another themed extension of the original game.
But even in the short time that it lasts, there’s no denying the fun that can be had from playing Doodle Kingdom, and it quickly becomes clear why JoyBits’ addictive gameplay formula has been so successful over the years. With an imaginative medieval theme that constantly forms the basis for the new elements you’ll be creating, not to mention some quick and lighthearted quests that have you hatching dragons and more, there’s nothing like playing Ye Olde God in a game of castles and catapults!