With apologies to PaRappa for stealing and changing his lyrics, we have here a new title from ThePolygonLoft, featuring, believe it or not, a cute little pug dog. Now, I should lay my cards on the table here and say I don’t like pugs at the best of times, and I like them even less after playing this game. Still, is having a pug, and having to switch it, enough of a framework to build a game on?
The story of Double Pug Switch is a fairly simple one; albeit one that should really have been seen coming. A red haired scientist works in a lab, and for some reason she has taken her two pets in to work with her. Now, one of these pets is a pug, and as such wouldn’t really be much of an issue – content to lie around the place, sleeping and farting. The other pet she chose to bring is the issue – a cat. Now, as we all know, cats are mean-spirited, vindictive little beasties, and so it is in this case with Whiskers. He smashes two test tubes that have got portal mixture in them, and creates a portal to another dimension, where both cat and pug are sucked through. Obviously it would be nice for them to get back home, and this forms the basis of the game.
Visually and the pug, our hero Otis, looks like, well, a pug; a gormless little furry bundle with a cute yet confused look on his face; one that gets more confused every time the scientist explains a bit of the plot to him. Whiskers, the cat, has apparently become some sort of cyborg, and now refers to himself as Lord Sker, has gained the power of speech and runs a plan to bring an army of cats home to get rid of all dogs everywhere. Anyway, the graphics are somewhat basic, to be kind, and I can’t imagine it takes much processing power to draw a bunch of horizontal rectangles and put spikes on some of them. The pug runs like all pugs do, with maximum effort but little result, and Lord Sker, when he turns up, is found driving some strange cat head-shaped machinery. There’s nothing groundbreaking here with the visuals of Double Pug Switch. The sound is likewise lacking, apart from some very pleasant but overly loud tunes that play as Otis romps through the landscape. So, it looks pretty simple, but how does it play?
To get home, you have to run through a variety of side-scrolling environments, jumping at the right time. However, the pug has been changed by his trip through the portal, and can now switch to an alternative dimension to help him get through the stages and their various hazards. The title begins to make sense now, doesn’t it? So, basically, the pug has to start at the left hand side of a level, and you have to tell him when to jump and when to change to the other dimension. And that, folks, is pretty much the gameplay summed up. The pug runs all the time – you can’t slow him down – and with gaps and spikes to make it through, not to mention platforms that only become solid in certain dimensions, the struggle is real. The A button jumps, with different heights achievable based on how hard or long you press the button, and the B button swaps to the alternate dimension pug. There are two buttons to work with in Double Pug Switch, but there is so much agony caused.
Much of the issue is that the difficulty level starts off steep (there’s an achievement for dying in the tutorial level, for instance) and very soon becomes ridiculous. By the start of the second set of levels (world 2, if you will) my thumb had just about had a nervous breakdown, and the timing of jumps becomes completely unforgiving. While the actual gameplay is simple, the mastery of the game is anything but.
Now, as you go through the levels, you can find and collect coins, both in gold and purple flavours. Collecting all the coins is certainly going to require a bit of planning, and since the level layouts don’t change, it is purely a matter of trying to work out the rhythm of the jumping and swapping, and then rinsing and repeating from there on out. It usually took me no more than six or so attempts to figure out where I was going wrong, and that allows for corrections to be made. The coins that you do manage to liberate can be used to buy hats for Otis, and while they don’t seem to make much of a difference to his journey, completing a level in a top hat and monocle just adds a touch of class.
Now for the obligatory complaint paragraph, but other than the sheer test on offer, there’s not a lot to complain about with Double Pug Switch. The checkpoint system is a bit annoying, largely because when you die (and you will, unless you have the reflexes of a ninja) and choose to restart from a checkpoint, the level loads, Otis starts running, and if you aren’t concentrating he will usually run straight into spikes or off an edge. Yes, there’s no namby pamby countdown or anything here – it literally throws you straight into the action. Occasionally, the jump button sometimes isn’t quite as sharp as you’d wish and quite often old Otis will headbutt a spike instead of sailing over it as envisioned. Honestly though, after a while jumping fatigue sets in, and it all starts to get a bit samey. Thankfully, with four worlds, and eight levels per world, including the showdowns with Lord Sker, this isn’t a long game. Once you get a hold on the mechanics and the jumping requirements, you should be able to blast through the majority of it in an afternoon.
Double Pug Switch is a simple game, with simple controls, and a simple charm. It looks basic yet the difficulty ramps up to ensure things get very tricky, very quickly. It would be perfect for a short bash while on a car journey via Nintendo Switch, but on the Xbox One it’s a harder sell. Whatever you are playing it on though, if you like jumping and pugs, then by all means give it a whirl.