Slowly but surely, all of the major iPhone gaming hits are finding their way to Windows Phone. It’s important that Microsoft’s young platform has the games that people like and want to play. The latest game to make the jump to Xbox Live is Doodle Jump, originally developed by Lima Sky. The Windows Phone version was ported by Mr. Goodliving (who were shut down by owner RealNetworks prior to the game’s actual release) and Game-Lion Studios. Doodle Jump has been a huge success on other platforms due to its unique, appealing art style, precise accelerometer-based controls, and easy-to-learn, hard-to-master game play.
Is Doodle Jump just as much of a standout on Windows Phone? Step, no, jump past the break to find out.
Platformers go on a diet
Tilt controls can make or break a mobile game. Grafting them onto established console franchises like I Love Katamari and Super Monkey Ball can lead to poor or even disastrous results. Lima Sky did a smart thing when creating Doodle Jump – they boiled a relatively complex genre, the platformer, down to the basics. What do all platformers have in common? They involve jumping from one platform to another. And that’s exactly the premise of Doodle Jump – control a character (the Doodler) that is always jumping by tilting the phone to steer him left and right. A few other frills like powerups and enemies made the cut, but at its heart Doodle Jump is a simple, extremely easy to learn experience.
The goal in Doodle Jump is to get as high as possible before dying. Enemies, naturally, do their best to prevent this. There are several different kinds, including stationary ones, baddies who move up and down or side-to-side, and a winged predator that follows the player diagonally up the screen. There’s even a UFO that acts just like the one in Parachute Panic, sucking the Doodler up if he’s not careful.
These unsavory types can be defeated by either jumping on them (good for a quick height boost) or shooting them one or more times. Tap anywhere on the screen and The Doodler will spit some kind of object in that direction, you see.
Enemies add challenge to the game play, but I still find them pretty annoying. Just like the Sonic the Hedgehog series, you’ll often be moving along at a fast pace when your momentum is ruined by running into an enemy that you really couldn’t see or react to in time. Sure, they make a telltale sound before coming onscreen, but that does the player little good if his or her jump puts him in the enemy’s path before it can actually be seen.
Powerups are yummy
Enemies and other obstacles may be out to get the Doodler, but that doesn’t mean he can’t find a little help. Powerups include spring shoes for five super jumps; a propeller hat that carries Doodler up for a distance; jet-packs for traveling a fair space in short order; and an invincibility shield that’s so uncommon it barely merits mention. They’re all useful to collect, though they may occasionally leave you in a tricky spot after they wear off.
Climbing up the same level repeatedly can get a bit dull. Thankfully Doodle Jump has several themes to choose from. These change not only the background but also the appearance of the Doodler and his foes, the way gravity affects the Doodler’s shots, and the presence and frequency of powerups and enemies.
The Windows Phone version includes the following themes:
- Original: Everything looks like colored sketches on graph paper
- Christmas: Powerups are wrapped as presents!
- Graveyard: A dark stage in which the Doodler himself gives off a little light. Play this stage if you don’t want to get as far as normal.
- Jungle: The sides of the screen are covered in foreground foliage and it rains occasionally. Jungle has the highest enemy density in the game.
- Space: Plenty of jetpacks and also rockets for the Doodler to ride inside (which act like jetpacks).
Graphics and sound
Like Parachute Panic, the original stage of Doodle Jump is supposed to resemble a person’s simple drawings brought to life. It may not amaze from a technical standpoint, but it doesn’t need to. The other themes feature more detailed backgrounds but they still have a graph paper texture beneath them.
Doodle Jump is a mixed bag on the sound front. Great, catchy sound effects fit the game perfectly. The complete lack of music disappoints, however. One could make the argument that any included music would get old after numerous play sessions (and some people do play Doodle Jump for hours), but I’d rather have one or more songs that I can turn off should I tire of them. On the other hand, Windows Phone users can always fire up an album in the Zune player prior to starting the game and listen to that as they play.
A few scribbles… Err, quibbles
Doodle Jump is massively popular, and for good reason. But it’s not perfect. The menus look thrown together and it’s easy to overlook the theme selection at the bottom of the screen. The game’s help section contains only a single sentence instructing players to avoid hazards and enemies. At the very least it should have described the different powerups, and maybe gone into some detail about each kind of enemy and platform.
The Windows Phone version lacks some of the iPhone game’s features, too. Several of the iPhone game’s themes and costumes are missing. Considering how little work would be involved in porting those assets over, the developers really have no excuse for the omission. Online multi-player is also MIA, though that’s at least due to current Xbox Live restrictions rather than laziness.
One area in which Windows Phone Doodle Jump trumps the original is Xbox Live Achievements. But that statement comes with a caveat. Put simply, this title has the most difficult Achievements of any Windows Phone game so far. Casual, unending games like this tend to have cumulative Achievements. You’d think Doodle Jump’s would revolve around jumping a certain number of times or killing however many enemies over time. Instead, grueling Achievements like jumping on or passing by 30 enemies in one game assure that only the most elite and dedicated players will earn them. They’re not impossible but the level of mastery required is just way too high for a casual title.
Worse, no one has even figured out how to get the UFO Abduction Survivor Achievement. It’s worth a whopping 60 GamerScore that literally nobody has earned so far. Due to that mystery and the overall difficulty of its Achievements, most players can expect to earn only 60-100 points from Doodle Jump.
Doodle Jump versus MonsterUp
Before Doodle Jump came to Windows Phone, Karios Games’ indie title MonsterUp filled the jumping game void. They play very similarly, though there are some key differences. MonsterUp has no enemies, so players only need to worry about avoiding obstacles and not falling. It also has several unique playable characters, all with their own special abilities. Special moves don’t really add much to the game, but they’re still a plus.
MonsterUp’s art style is much different than Doodle Jump’s, but both games look good – I’d say they’re a draw, visually. MonsterUp’s sound is much better though, as it not only has a catchy background tune but also cute voices for each of the monsters.
On the other hand, Doodle Jump has five different themes, whereas MonsterUp only has three. Plus, DoodleJump includes Xbox Live Achievements. Sure, several of them are nigh-unobtainable, but they still offer an incentive to play that indie games can’t quite match. In the end, Doodle Jump’s name recognition and Xbox Live status guarantee stellar sales, but players looking for even more jumping action would be MonsterUp.
Doodle Jump is an extremely addictive game. Controls matter, and steering the Doodler’s jumps with your phone just feels good. Chasing high scores is the name of the game here. Comparing scores with others via Xbox Live friends leaderboards provides incentive to keep at it. Plus, unlike most Xbox Live games, Doodle Jump has local scoreboards in which players can enter their own names, so you can pass the phone around to give friends and relatives a shot at the action. Despite its poorly-conceived Achievements and a few missing features, Doodle Jump on Windows Phone truly is a must-play game.
Doodle Jump costs $2.99. There’s a free trial for people who’ve been living in a cave and never played other versions. Hop over here (Zune link) to grab it from the Marketplace.
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