STAFF REVIEW of Arkan: The dog adventurer (Xbox One)

Monday, June 28, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Arkan: The dog adventurer Box art Are you a dog lover? Do you wish there was a game where the dog was the hero defeating its enemies? What if that dog was like a humanoid, wearing plate armor and could use its stick to whack a ball back at its enemies? If that very odd and interesting concept for a game was ever your desire, then there’s now the perfect game for you in Arkan: The dog adventurer.

That’s right, you’re an armor bearing dog that can freely move and jump around and wields a bo-like stick to whack a ball back at your enemies. If you grew up with classic brick breaker games like Arkanoid or Breakout then you’ll know exactly what to expect, except the gameplay is played horizontally instead of vertically. It’s an interesting mash up of platforming and brick breaking genres to say the least. As I write this, I also just realized that maybe the dog’s name is Arkan for its Arkanoid game roots.

You’ll move Arkan with the Left Stick, aim with the Right and hit the ball in whatever direction your cursor is aiming with the Right Trigger. There’s a bit of a delay between hits you can perform with your stick, so you’re going to want to practice your timing since you’re unable to spam the attack when the ball gets near. You’re also able to do a short teleport in the direction you’re aiming, also slowing down time in the process with the ‘Left Trigger’, and while it works, I simply forgot I had the ability until things got crazy and hectic.

While this control setup is all well and good, what doesn’t feel natural is that jumping is tied to pressing ‘Up’ on the stick instead of a dedicated button. When you want to double jump, you guessed it it, you’re going to have to press ‘Up’ twice, as well as trying to watch for the ball and maneuver Arkan on small ledges. It’s functional and works, but doesn’t feel natural, even after playing for quite a while.

Akran plays on the left side of the screen while all the bricks and enemies are on the right. Each enemy shoots a different projectile type at you and eventually you’ll also have to deal with zombie hands that raise from the ground where you’re currently standing on the very few platforms you’re given, so you’re generally always going to be on the move to avoid the other projectiles. There’s a force field that blocks Arkan from getting too close to the right side of the screen and there are plenty of pits that cause a game over if you fall in.

From what I can gather, your ball becomes slightly more powerful and quicker each time you combo hit it before it zooms off the screen if you miss it, but this really isn’t explained well. When you do miss the ball and it goes off screen it simply reappears in front of you, so there’s really no need to get yourself in harm’s way to try and save the ball. You do have a health bar though, so the most important thing is to not get hit by the projectiles or fall into the pits, or else you’ll need to restart the level. It takes quite a few levels to get the overall feel and timing, but eventually it becomes second nature as you try and survive the enemies shooting at you while double jumping from platform to platform trying to whack the ball at a specific block in front of an enemy.

There are three worlds with 20 levels each and you’re scored up to three stars, based on how many of the three stars you’ve smashed with your ball. That’s right, you aren’t scored based on how quickly you finish a level or how many bricks you broke, but how many of the three stars you collect before you destroy the last enemy to finish the level. You’re able to choose from three different difficulties, and interestingly, they aren’t tied to their own progression. This means if you’re playing on Hard and get stuck on a level, you can play it on Easy to get your stars and go back to Hard if you wish. Certain levels seem to randomly have massive spikes of difficulty, even on Easy, but you don’t have to play levels in order and can freely jump around in different levels if you get stuck.

From what I can tell, the major differences between the difficulties is the enemy count, which means many more projectiles to avoid. Hard mode is quite challenging, especially once you reach the third world. This final world essentially turns each level into how many projectiles can they throw at you and hiding enemies behind as many near destructible bricks as possible rather than clever brick placements.

With cute pixel drawn artwork, Arakan: The dog adventurer won’t ‘wow’ you by any means, but it serves its purpose by having a light hearted and colorful aesthetic. The music is about on the same level, with just a couple sounds and music tracks, but nothing memorable.

Some sort of online leaderboard or other scoring system would help Arakan have some longevity, though as it is, you're not likely to play much after you've collected all the stars and challenged yourself to every level. Truth be told, I initially thought Arakan: The dog adventurer was a mobile port brought to Xbox, but for a game that’s priced at about $5, it’s hard to complain for some simple pick up and play brick breaker action, even if its concept is a little far-fetched.

**Arkan: The dog adventurer was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 5.4 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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