Developer: Sarah Northway
Price: $1.99
Version: 1.01
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

It’s interesting to think that the same mind behind the absolutely stellar (and in my opinion criminally under-looked) Rebuild could also be responsible for creating a Roguelike word game featuring a hip hop dog. Then again it makes a weird kind of sense. And despite the enormous gulf between genres, Word Up Dog is pretty much just as much of a time-eater as its less family-friendly older sibling.

So how does such a bizarre concept work? With a dog that’s more 80s than the 80s falling through a hole and getting trapped underground. In order to find his way home he needs to gather bones and dig his way out. Bones function as both a currency and a sort of energy meter: they can be used to buy power-ups as well as dig through dirt. Digging serves multiple purposes as it’s necessary to reach the level’s exit, find more bones, and acquire letters. The letters are, of course, the real stars of the show since they’re essential to earning even more bones and hopefully making it out in once piece.

Word Up Dog has a lot going for it whether or not players like the over the top 80s aesthetic. The levels are randomly generated which keeps replays from becoming stale. A number of vending machines as well as friendly animals can be found and each dispenses a different kind of handy item or tile that can completely turn a bad situation around. Later levels include enemies (of a sort) that can convert vowels to consonants and vice-versa. Which is all great stuff but my personal favorite is by far the random challenge feature that will toss increasingly difficult (yet totally optional) word-related tasks at players for bonus bones. There’s nothing quite like desperately digging for a “G” while the clock runs down in order to make a six-letter word and hopefully earn enough to access the end of the level.

If there was one thing I’d have to harp on Word Up Dog for, it would be the movement and digging controls. They aren’t really bad or anything, but they’re a little clunky since they’re oriented to what portion of the screen is tapped rather than a less screen obscuring directional pad. They only really become an issue when “enemies” that move when the puppy moves are introduced, and even then only slightly, but they’re still a bit of a problem.

Word Up Dog is an incredibly weird concept that seems all the more random when compared to the developer’s other releases, but that doesn’t make it any less amusing to play. It’s weird enough to enjoy without being too obtuse to follow. It’s also just plain goofy and worth showing off because it features animals dressed like rappers from the 80s: it practically sells itself.


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