Slicker than a hunk of Ivory sliding around the tub.
By Robert Marrujo:: One thing that's cool about working for a video game news site is how every once in awhile a game lands in your lap that you weren't expecting. Soap Dodgem was a recent example of this for me. I was unfamiliar with developer Lost Ducks until they reached out to me, but the second I started reading about their mobile game Soap Dodgem, I was intrigued.
The game is described as "a minimalist sliding puzzle game" set in the mythical world of Bathlandia. Living bars of soap are on a mission to rid their land of the evil mold creatures that populate it. It's a goofy, silly premise that perfectly sets the stage for the sort of lighthearted tone and hi jinx that Soap Dodgem delivers.
Sliding puzzle games are always a delight; I've been a fan of them ever since I first encountered them in The Legend of Zelda. Devoting an entire game to these sort of puzzles can be tricky, though, as at its core, sliding things around can only be so captivating a mechanic. Over a long stretch of time, games like Soap Dodgem run the risk of being stale. Thankfully, Lost Ducks was able to avoid the typical pratfalls that puzzlers of this ilk are susceptible to.
For starters, the "minimalist style" that I mentioned above is wonderfully implemented in Soap Dodgem. Menus are spartan but informative. The graphics are bold and uncomplicated, delightfully presenting a convincing simulacra of a world that's an enormous bathroom! Little touches in the presentation are also notable, such as the satisfying click of a soap hero sliding its way back into its caddie.
The soundtrack was an unexpected pleasure, as it hummed along in the background perfectly complimenting the action but never overwhelming it. In a game like Soap Dodgem where a lot of time is spent trying to perfect a run on a given level, that's a must. The score was composed by Csabi Kalotas, so it comes with some pedigree (and thus, the fine quality!).
The premise in every puzzle is simple: return the soap to its Holdercraft (essentially a caddie) while simultaneously wiping out the mold creatures littered about. The controls are very straight forward, as the player simply swipes in whichever cardinal direction he or she wants the soap to go. There are different obstacles to contend with in the playing field, however, like collapsable floor tiles, rolls of toilet paper that stop a soap's movement but buckle back a space with each hit, and more.
These various items and hazards make traversing ever level far from a cake walk. While it might look obvious how to eradicate the mold, the myriad of things to interact with quickly complicate (in a good way!) reaching the end goal. What's more, there's a hidden Golden Bubble within every level of Soap Dodgem. I loved this particular element, as while the actual mechanics and fun of each level is sound, the Golden Bubble added an additional layer of depth. It became addictive trying to find every one of them and obtain a score of Perfectly Clean.
While the 100 puzzles within Soap Dodgem alone are worth the price of admission, Lost Ducks didn't stop there. Fans can also elect to create their own levels and share them! Player creations can be shared directly or within the game's cloud, meaning there will (in theory) be a never-ending stream of new puzzles to tackle. There are even exclusive soaps and obstacles to run into in this mode, so players wanting yet more from Soap Dodgem should check it out. It's a snap to put together and share a level, so hopefully a robust community will be spring up around the game.
My only gripe is that some of the puzzles and Golden Bubble locations are way too hard to figure out. I found myself retrying many puzzles more often than I thought was reasonable. That said, the game will pop in to offer help when it senses that a player is struggling. It's a useful feature that mostly counters my complaint, but I'd argue that if the only way I can solve a puzzle is to seek help, then the puzzle was missing enough cues to allow me to suss out the solution on my own. Of course, those cues could have been there and I was just too dense to notice them! Overall the difficulty in Soap Dodgem is pretty fair.
Soap Dodgem looks pretty, sounds great, and controls like a dream. There are plenty of games out there for people looking for deep narratives and complexity, but Soap Dodgem is very clear in its mission: this is for fans who want quick bursts of fun. Whether on your commute or just sitting around on your couch at home, Soap Dodgem is a great way to spend a few minutes sliding around soap and cleaning up mold. That's... probably the only time in anyone's life that the prospect of cleaning up will actually be fun! That's exactly what Soap Dodgem is, though.
SCORE: 8.5/10 (GREAT)
Positives: Solid presentation carries through on the promise of a minimalist puzzle experience; the soap and mold characters are cute and lend some pops of color to the tiled world of Bathlandia; soothing soundtrack that compliments the action but doesn't distract; tons of puzzles; Golden Bubbles add depth and challenge; sharing and creating puzzles.
Negatives: Some Golden Bubbles and puzzle solutions can be overly obtuse; difficulty level can spike at random with some of the real head-scratcher puzzles.
Binx was provided with a copy of this game by a third party for review purposes, but this in no way impacted our recommendation. For every review, Binx.News uses a standard criteria.