Review: “Halloween 2016 Google Doodle” (Casual Browser Game)

Edit: Thankfully, my fears about the game disappearing after Halloween turned out to be false, Google has archived it.

Edit: Thankfully, my fears about the game disappearing after Halloween turned out to be false, Google has archived it.

Well, I hadn’t planned to write a game review today but,when I looked at Google a while earlier, I decided to check out the Google Doodle – expecting it to be a funny animated movie or something like that.

However, it turned out to be an actual computer game… and one that is worthy of review, if only for posterity (since I don’t imagine that it’ll be available after Halloween). [Edit: (1/11/16): Luckily, I was wrong. The game has been archived here]

So, let’s take a quick look at the Halloween 2016 Google Doodle:

This is the introductory movie, but there's an actual game afterwards :)

This is the introductory movie, but there’s an actual game afterwards 🙂

The backstory of the game is fairly simple, you play as a magic cat whose spellbook has been stolen by ghosts. In order to get it back, you must banish wave after wave of ghosts (and five bosses) by casting spells with your wand. Yes, it’s basically a wave shooter – but with a really cool twist.

Yes, the game's controls actually reflect the main character's actions. THIS is good game design!

Yes, the game’s controls actually reflect the main character’s actions. THIS is good game design!

Yes, you actually have to draw with your mouse in order to cast spells. Seriously, it’ll make you feel like you’re in a “Harry Potter” movie!

In the first level, each ghost has a symbol above it’s head and you have to draw it before the ghost touches you. In later levels, ghosts will have groups of symbols that must be drawn in order.

This is a screenshot from an easy part of level one. I didn't take many, if any, other screenshots of the gameplay since it was just too fast-paced to do anything other than actually play!

This is a screenshot from an easy part of level one. I didn’t take many, if any, other screenshots of the gameplay since it was just too fast-paced to do anything other than actually play!

Yes, it’s like a cross between “The Typing Of The Dead” and “Asteroids” and…. it’s awesome! Seriously, it’s more fun than it looks!

One of the things that elevates this game to the level of greatness is the fact that when you draw a symbol, if more than one ghosts have that symbol at the end of their line up, then it will affect them all. What this means is that you have to make split-second tactical decisions repeatedly.

You have to work out which order to draw the symbols in order to keep multiple ghosts away, and you often have to do all of this within 3-5 seconds. In many ways, the gameplay is more like an ultra-challenging level for the classic “Doom” games than a simple casual browser game. It’s a fast, combat-based puzzle and it is exhilerating.

The first four level bosses are fairly average. They’ll have a long line of symbols and, like in old platform games, you’ll have to knock them back 2-3 times before they’ll go down. Plus, like in classic FPS games, you’ll also be fending off the occasional low-level monster whilst fighting the boss too. However, if you lose any health points during a boss battle, then you can sometimes reclaim them by quickly drawing a heart with the mouse.

And, yes, there's an epic boss battle at the end too.

And, yes, there’s an epic boss battle at the end too.

The most notable boss is probably the final boss – not only is he gigantic, but the low-level ghosts that attack you between duels with the boss are also significantly smaller than usual, meaning that you’ll have to pay extra-close attention to the tiny symbols above their heads. You’ll feel amazing when you finally beat the game though – seriously, it’ll feel like the longest 10-15 minutes you’ve ever spent.

I'm not sure if this is a high score or not, but it was fun :) I was able to become an expert at a totally new style of gameplay within just 10-15 minutes. Now, THAT is good game design!!!

I’m not sure if this is a high score or not, but it was fun 🙂 I was able to become an expert at a totally new style of gameplay within just 10-15 minutes. Now, THAT is good game design!!!

In short, the gameplay is fast, intuitive and extremely well-designed. It’s that rare thing, a genuinely innovative modern game! It may look like a cute casual browser game, but the actual gameplay is closer to an old-school FPS game, mixed with a fighting game, mixed with an arcade dancing game, mixed with a QTE game, mixed with “The Typing Of The Dead”, mixed with a Nintendo Wii game and a few other things. And… it works! It really does.

Likewise, I really like the art style in this game too. It has a cute, low-budget 1960s cartoon kind of look to it and many of the ghosts are absolutely adorable too. The animations in this game are all suitably fluid and dramatic-looking too. The music is, of course, classic “spooky” Halloween music.

All in all, it’s really fun and it probably isn’t going to be online for too much longer. So, play it! Now!

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five. Happy Halloween everyone 🙂

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