I love a genre mash up and Arkan The Dog Adventurer is one such game. It takes the brick breaking gameplay of Arkanoid, with a platformer. Armed with a stick and ball, your doggy character jumps and leaps around 2D platforms to try and smash the bricks of each level. All the while enemies are firing back at you.
Let’s get the good things out in the open first. Arkan has a great premise gameplay wise. Combining Arkanoid with platforming and killing enemies is a nice combo. Some of the level progression is a little off though. Each level has enemies for you to kill and once they are gone the level ends. You are scored up to three stars and this has nothing to do with time or skill, its about collecting three stars laid out in each level. You can and will kill everything early and miss all the stars and therefore it looks like you’ve done a poor job. It’s a really odd design choice I never quite understood.
Your attack range is a circular radius around you which goes through walls. This sounds odd to begin with but its to help make the game easier. This is because most of the game has enemy fire coming towards you and only a couple of places for you to stand to avoid it. Stand still and zombie hands come out the floor and hurt you. Arkan needs to be constantly moving and so the through-the-walls cheat seems to even the odds for the player. What doesn’t help the player is that often you’ll get stuck with enemy fire keeping you from reaching the ball and you lose health when the ball goes out of play. That can be behind you but also sometimes above and below the screen too. The ball never feels fully in your control either. This is in part because you have to direct the ball in a direction when you hit it but you are often moving at the time, and also because of the circular hit radius. Its always a bit of a best guess rather than ever feeling accurate and I lost count of the times the arrow trajectory of the ball didn’t really match my inputs. Early in the game, this isn’t much of a problem but from world 3 onwards, Arkan’s difficulty ramps up massively and all these little niggles start to overwhelm.
Graphically and musically, Arkan is basic but functional. I can’t help but feel either Arkan should be smaller on screen or the camera should be further away though. Often you are trapped in one third of the screen to move around and Arkan is a cumbersome giant to move around in close quarters. The game likes to force that playstyle though of constantly nipping between two platforms and so if there was ever a sequel, my main feedback is please zoom out the camera a bit!
I’ve been quite negative but when Arkan works, there’s a good game to sink your teeth into with flashes of greatness where some fiendish level design allows. It’s just these flashes are often marred by odd design choices and woolly physics that expect precision from the player but doesn’t provide it either. The PC version is far superior to the console versions as it contains a level editor. Whilst the editor has bugs, at least you can build infinite levels to play, whilst on console things are more streamlined. It’s worth noting the platinum is achieved at the end of world 2 so all the difficulty in the game is removed if you are just grabbing trophies.
Arkan The Dog Adventurer
Some nice ideas hampered by odd design choices and a jagged difficulty curve.
Interesting genre mash up provides novelty for a while.
Some levels are well designed to trip the player up.
Level editor (PC only).
Physics are a bit vague and lack clarity and precision.
Difficulty curve is more like a jagged mountain cliff.
The action feels too close to the screen and Arkan is too big.
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