It’s hard not to love Doodle Army considering its all-encompassing appeal. It’s like Tom & Jerry, The Simpsons, or Elmer Fudd - confessing to a dislike of any of the above is to announce to the world that you are a humourless grump who wouldn’t know fun if it custard pied you in the face.
Of course, there's no accounting for taste in these matters, but Doodle Army deals in the universal language of extreme cartoon violence. It provides thrillingly brutal, sniggeringly comical side-scrolling action, with just enough thoughtfulness to raise it comfortably above novelty status.
We’ll say it again: it’s hard not to love Doodle Army.
That’s not to say it’s perfect - far from it. If you’ve played Doodle Army for five minutes, you’ve seen everything it has to offer.
You move from left to right using simple directional buttons, while two adjacent virtual keys handle jumping and crouching. There are two ways to fire: you can opt for finger fire, where holding in the direction of enemies fires continuously in that direction, or a more traditional analogue nub.
You're armed to the teeth with an array of constantly revolving weaponry. You run out of ammo as often as you collect it, so you're forever cycling through your armoury automatically, making for a shuffled orchestra of blams, blasts, and blood splatters.
The environments are composed of archetypal war backdrops populated with similarly typecast foes. If you’re not gunning down beret wearing Bolivian revolutionaries, then it’s Vietcong-alikes, complete with rice paddy hats.
Doodle Army blithely plays fast and loose with a confection of real world conflicts, showing all the sensitivity of a Sherman tank.
This is a pure knickerbocker glory of gunfire, explosions, human confetti, gut wrenching screams and all out chaos.
That said, there are some more deeply entrenched issues. We can forgive the game's copy-and-paste approach to level design and we delight at persistent checkpoints. We’re less thrilled, however, with how much of a slog the levels can become.
You're scored for each stage, both by how much distance you travel and how many purple hearts (which double as health boosts) you collect from fallen foes. Each level is 1000m long, and though you'll often unlock the next stage on points before reaching the end of the current stage, there's the feeling that given the game’s limited, though admittedly exhilarating, gameplay, progression should be sped up slightly and levels shortened.
There are other elements that do keep things fresh, however, such as the constant stream of new player costumes (doodles), which are instantly applied as soon as they are unlocked.
You're Rambo one minute, a Russian KGB officer the next, and then, before you know it, you’re wearing a santa outfit while gunning down Nazis in Normandy.
It may not be big and it may not be clever, but if it’s some good old-fashioned guilty pleasure gaming you're after, Doodle Army is an ideal slice of something bad for you.