PHOGS! Review

A frustrating charmer

I’ve been playing games for over 20 years now, but in all that time, I can’t think of anything quite like PHOGS!. While you can play it alone, Bit Loom Games have brought that spirit of co-operation to a new level, letting you play as two heads of a conjoined doggo (or is it Phoggo) called Red and Blue.

With options for 2-player online and local multiplayer, this cutesy puzzle game is basically the video game equivalent of CatDog. Bringing us a strange and wonderfully wholesome experience, it isn’t entirely flawless either sadly. 

Taking us to a realm known as the “Phoggyverse”, this adventure spans across 24 different levels between three separate worlds. Food World is swarming with sweet treats at every turn, enough to make Willy Wonka jealous. Play World is more of a giant toybox, bringing us everything from retro arcades to seaside amusement parks. Playable in any order, each world is capped off with a boss battle, putting your skills to the test. Finally, we have Sleep World, a much dreamier landscape taking place under the stars with cushions, quilts, and teddy bears all perfectly laid out. 

Time for a walk

Each level is filled with environmental puzzles and to solve them; you’ll need to work together. This starts with simple challenges, like hitting two switches at the same or placing objects into a set location, but it gradually gets more complicated. For example, your path is frequently blocked by shadows in the Sleep World, requiring a light source to get through. Similarly, the Play World contains wind turbines that need powering up to advance, bringing some light platforming action with it. One level even has a Mission Impossible-style sequence, where you grab a post with one head and dangle down the other to obtain a key, avoiding sentries in the process.

Red and Blue are linked via their belly, capable of stretching a fair distance apart upon pressing the shoulder buttons. Considering they’re slippery smooth, movement is a little loose, so be careful not to fall off the map, though checkpoints are quite generous if you do. Both dogs can grab objects via biting them, and for certain objects, such as light orbs, this extends that effect through the other dog’s head. There’s some highly imaginative level design at work here, requiring players to get creative and if you’ve got a good Player Two, completing levels is quite satisfying. 

Like any co-op game, success comes down to your communication with teammates but usually, that involves controlling two separate entities. Placing two players within one character brings a good sense of humour to proceedings, but it also creates a larger problem, restricting your movement options significantly. Everyone is drawn to different objects and won’t always remember to signal exactly what they’re doing. It can be frustrating as a result, but this isn’t an insurmountable problem. It just means that PHOGS! is an experience which requires patience and player understanding.

You’ll also notice a set of collectable dog biscuits to find, usually 4-5 per level. These are usually rewarded for thorough map exploration or solving a particular problem, such as beating a tricky puzzle or reuniting a character with a specified item. These biscuits are essentially your currency and can buy cosmetic hats for Red and Blue, ranging from nightcaps to teacups. Each world has its own shop with different hats, switchable via the shop mirror. 

Two heads are better than one

Being able to dress up these boys is a level of customisation that dog lovers everywhere will appreciate, and that’s without even getting into the wider visuals. It’s impossible not to feel charmed by the whimsical nature of PHOGS!, as it brings us a gorgeous visual style that’ll please players of all ages. Red and Blue are simply adorable; you cannot help but fall in love with them. Everything is backed up by a rather pleasant soundtrack, one that fits this cutesy style well. 

Featuring a charming aesthetic and imaginative puzzle designs, it is unfortunate that the core element of PHOGS! feels rather frustrating at points. Though the co-op angle of playing a conjoined character is quite unique, that lack of free movement can prove quite limiting. It works fine as a solo game, but co-op is where it truly shines and that requires good communication with your Player Two. If you’re willing to give it that time and patience, this is still a wholesome experience that comes recommended.