These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.
The first thing you will discover when you fire up Doug Dug, an iOS game that runs on both the iPhone and the iPad, is that it has nothing to do with Dig Dug, the 1980s arcade classic from Namco. There are no Pookas, no Fygars, and definitely no inflating monsters until they burst. And that will be a bitter disappointment to you. I understand that.
But it will be the last thing to disappoint you about Doug Dug. Because the game manages to inspire Flappy Bird-levels of addictiveness without resorting to frustrating gameplay or gimmicks to do it (which is very much unlike Flappy Bird).
What makes me keep launching Doug Dug during those spare moments of the day when I'm looking for a quick diversion? Let's count the ways.
Straightforward gameplay: In Doug Dug, you control a dwarf (the titular Doug) as he burrows far beneath the Earth's surface (the titular Dug) looking for gold, silver, and other precious metals and gems. You can pick up a few power-ups along the way that will either help with your digging or ward off any of the dozens of things that will bring your journey to the center of the earth to an abrupt, squishy end. But that's the game in a nutshell--there's no elaborate backstory or levels or attempts to get you to cough up any in-app purchase money to improve Doug's chances of survival. It's just you, a shovel, and a lust for gold, trying to dig as deep as possible until you inevitably meet your demise.
The game's controls are just as simple as its premise: Just drag your finger in the direction you want to dig and Doug will follow. One might gripe that the controls are a little too simple. Some types of soil are easier to tunnel through than others, and if you're not careful, Doug will charge merrily ahead--even if it's into the path of an oncoming dirt avalanche. Still, while you may wish for more precise controls after sending Doug once again to his easily preventable doom, the drag-to-move approach is a perfectly reasonable one for this kind of casual game and a nice use of the touch interface for iOS.
Just the right amount of challenge: Game makers have to walk a fine line between making a game just challenging enough to keep you coming back to try and better your score but not so frustratingly impossible that you're hurling your iPhone through an open window. Doug Dug gets the formula right: You'll always think that this will be the time you'll lead Doug to a new high score--or a new low, as the game cleverly puts it, since you are digging downward--right up until the moment Doug meets a grisly end.
And make no mistake--there are countless ways to die in Doug Dug. Man-eating spiders, teleporting mummies, giants with clubs--all of these things are waiting to kill you if the collapsing tunnels, hot lava, and boxes of TNT buried far below the Earth's surface don't get you first. I mean, who actually buries a crate of TNT hundreds of meters underground? It seems very unsafe.
Completely casual: Even if you're able to lead Doug deep into the Earth's core--past the monsters, around the magma, avoiding all the falling rocks looking to flatten you--your game won't last any longer than a couple of minutes. That makes Doug Dug just about perfect for causal gamers, the sort of thing you can play to pass the time waiting in line or between subway stops without having to worry about putting the game down at a critical juncture. If you're looking for an immersive experience, this isn't the game for you. But if you take your gaming thrills where and when you can get them, Doug Dug is well-suited to a pick-it-up-and-put-it-down approach to gaming.