I’d imagine I’m not the only person getting more than a little tired of developers sticking the word doodle in their games’ titles in a transparent attempt at cozying up to the chart-topping hit Doodle Jump. So I guess I’d better start this review by saying FunTribe’s Doodle Lab 101 (out now, $0.99/Free)isn’t just another game jumping on that particular buzzword-bandwagon. On the contrary in fact, it’s a surprisingly innovative twist on a path drawing/physics puzzler, based around a pretty neat drawing mechanic.
Doodle Lab 101’s colorful, manga-esque visual style might impress, but the game’s true stroke of genius is its delightfully (and deceptively) simple core concept. The aim of each of the 70 stages is to get a set amount of elements (bouncy little balls) from a starting point and into a beaker. Armed with number of scientific apparatuses – well, a pencil, an eraser and some sort of element mixing thingamajig – what you’ve got to do is plot the most viable route through these topsy-turvy levels by drawing/erasing a path on the screen with your finger.
It’s a remarkably intuitive control method that leaves FunTribe open to further experiment with the game’s puzzle and path-drawing mechanics. Now, here’s the science bit – elements react realistically to their surroundings thanks to a wholly convincing physics system, skittering and bouncing wildly as they’re poured down the screen, and, as the game progresses, you don’t just have to worry about keeping them inside the lines, but are also tasked with mixing different colored elements to create new types, then siphoning them off into their corresponding beakers.
Easier said than done, believe me!
While Doodle Lab 101 is most definitely a well made and enjoyable little game, sadly it’s not perfect. Now, there’s nothing majorly wrong with it, but I should mention the inconsistent balancing of difficulty between levels, which does feel a bit off. Furthermore, an inadequate tutorial means the player is often on their own when it comes to figuring out what it is you’re supposed to do to clear certain stages.
That having been said, these are minor niggles, and nothing that can’t be ironed out in a future update or that should put you off experimenting with this incredibly absorbing puzzler. OpenFeint and Game Center fans are also in for a treat, as Doodle Lab 101 comes packed with a ton of extra achievements to be tackled. All in all, one of the best “doodle” games I’ve had the pleasure of playing in quite a while.
iFanzine Verdict:This innovative and strikingly original path drawing/physics puzzler hybrid hits upon a smart formula for fun. A compelling concept combined with intuitive touchscreen controls plus a generous splash of Openfeint & Game Center extras amounts to an A+ puzzle game. Simples!