June 29, 2015 7:51 PM | Sean Flint
Free games are nothing new to the market, but it is unusual to see one that features the production quality of Dolly. A puzzle-platformer at its roots, Dolly sends you on a journey through a mysterious world as you seek to discover its hidden secrets. A short game, featuring anywhere between 10-30 minutes of gameplay, Dolly still manages to leave a lasting impression with its unforgettable visuals, and its solid platforming mechanics.
Dolly is a game created for a student project. This is impressive in its own right when you take a look at the gorgeous minimalist artwork that the game presents. All of the art assets and animations for the game were done by hand, which always adds that level of polish that is impossible to miss. While it's easy to see that Dolly is a beautiful game, how does it hold up against other games in the platforming genre?
The game begins with a story snippet that really does a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the game. You don't get much information, just enough to draw you into the world and pique your interest at what exactly is going on. This brings on the topic of what sort of emotional impact Dolly manages to have on the player. During my time with the game (which was longer than I'd care to admit due to my terrible platforming skills), I felt a certain emotional connection with not only the game, but the character as well. Even though the character is represented by an abstract being, I was still able to form a bond and understand the struggle that it was enduring.
Dolly does such a phenomenal job of providing an emotional experience. I can't really say if it's the artwork, the soundtrack, or even the intro sequence, but something manages to dig into your mind and ensure that you cannot play the game without experiencing some sort of a connection.
In terms of its gameplay, Dolly is surprisingly solid. There were definitely a few sequences where I was dropped in the next "level" sooner than I should have been, meaning that I was a bit far away from the end of the current sequence for it to trigger. Other than that, I found the platforming sequences provided a good amount of challenge, without becoming frustrating.
Dolly's platforming has been likened to Super Meat Boy, and I can definitely see why. The tight controls and just the way the character moves remind me a lot of my time with SMB. There is even a bit of residue that splatters itself on a platform if you fail to jump over the nearest spike trap, much like the "meat trails" left in SMB.
Dolly is a fascinating game. I've played through it twice now, and definitely plan on going through a few more times in the near future. The game is just so relaxing to play. The world design and the music are fantastic, and they are the main sources of the emotion that Dolly is so good at causing the player to feel. Although it's extremely short, it is a fantastic example of how artistic video games can be, and is something that you should have a look at if you have a bit of time. I would definitely have no issue with Dolly being adapted into a full project in the future, and I'm excited to see what this group of talented students will create next.
If you'd like to play Dolly, you can download it through itch.io for free.