Here’s a question you probably haven’t been asked today. What happens when you combine a platforming dog that wields a staff, with the classic brick breaking game Arkanoid? Why, that would be Arkan: The dog adventurer of course (now the name makes more sense).
That’s right, it’s a rather novel idea but actually works quite well. On the left of the screen you control Arkan, who usually has a couple of platforms to help him get about. Meanwhile, on the right hand side lies an assortment of blocks which often protect enemies, and stars which can be collected. An assortment of nasty creatures will fire different types of projectiles at you, which at the same time need to be dodged whilst you are trying to break through the blocks to take them out.
To do this, Arkan has his ball which he can launch in any direction he likes, with the aid of his trusty staff. He can only move so far right on the screen before he comes up against a forcefield that prevents him from going any further (and making the game too easy). Using your ball, you’ll break through the blocks of varying strength, which will in turn allow you to take shots at your enemies, as well as collect the stars in that level. Your ball will freely bounce around the level, but will be lost if it exits on the left hand side of the screen. However, if you keep it in play then it will turn red, gradually becoming more powerful, making it easier to blast through the blocks and nasties in the level.
As you can imagine, at certain points there’s a lot going on at once on your screen, and unfortunately the controls don’t always work with the accuracy you would like. You use the left thumbstick to move Arkan around, and pushing up will see him jump, which he can do twice for a double jump. The right thumbstick aims where you will launch the ball, denoted by a large arrow, but it’s this that often isn’t accurate enough when you’re trying to hit the sweet spot on one side of the screen from the other. Add to this the fact that you’ll be jumping all over the place trying not to get shot, and the control setup can err on the frustrating side at times.
Each stage has three stars to collect, however if you kill all the enemies first the level will automatically end. This provides an opportunity for a little strategy to be deployed, if you’re a completionist who wants to “three star” each level. Of course, there are achievements to be earned by collecting stars, which make it more than worth doing so.
You’ll encounter a fair few different enemies as you progress through the 60 levels on offer in Arkan: The dog adventurer. From ghouls that summon hands to grab you where you stand, to huge witches who cast pulsating orbs that freeze you to the spot if you are hit, the enemies in the game provide a basic level of complexity which will test you, especially in the later levels as the action gets frantic. Learning how each one operates is key to clearing those more challenging encounters whilst bagging all three stars.
It’s here where Arkan’s party trick comes in handy. He can also teleport a short distance in any direction when needed, which can often save him from the jaws of death. This is an especially useful ability with enemy projectiles flying around everywhere, but needs a short time to recharge before being available to use again.
On the subject of difficulty, the classic choices of Easy, Normal and Hard are here to offer a challenge to almost any player. I must say that playing the game on normal felt pretty comfortable, but there were a handful of genuinely challenging levels. If you take too much damage, or fall down a hole in the ground, you’re dead. You have no life limit but can take five hits before your health bar depletes. If it does, you’ll simply have to start the level again.
Arkan: The dog adventurer looks decent enough, targeting the retro-style theme that so many budget indie titles do these days. That’s right, this is another game that’s priced at the familiar £4.19, which makes it pretty easy to justify picking up. It’s good fun too, sure to please puzzle fans and those after some cheap Xbox Gamerscore.
Arkan: The dog adventurer matches platforming and puzzling surprisingly well, offering block-breaking thrills without too many spills. It’s worth a look, especially for fans of the classic arcade hit.
Arkan: The dog adventurer provides block-breaking escapades on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One