**** Age: 3+
Two heads are better than one — except when you’re a pair of conjoined doggos pulling in different directions. Co-operation is the name of the game in colourful platform-puzzler Phogs! — either with another player or by getting the two halves of your brain to coordinate.
In solo mode, it equates to a sustained bout of patting your head while rubbing your tummy as you herd your stretchy mutt across platforms, pull levers and solve puzzles. The fun is clearly visible but sometimes tantalisingly out of reach.
In two-player mode, however, Phogs! comes into its own with an anarchic fiesta of shouting, cajoling and cheering, given that each half of the dog is separately controlled. Like all the best co-op games (such as Overcooked! and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime), half the craic lies in verbally abusing your team-mate as they refuse to follow requests or get horribly confused and send you tumbling off a ledge.
Later on, the challenges descend into amusing weirdness — such as the puzzle about watering a plant in which one dog drinks from a pipe and the other, well, pukes it up a few metres away.
Reliably funny and undeniably silly, Phogs! puts a smile on your face and will renew the whole family’s love for man’s best friend.
(PS5/PS4/PC) *** Age: 3+
Cuteness overload is the calling card in Bugsnax, another family-friendly puzzler with nods to the superior Xbox classic Viva Piñata in which you collect fantastical creatures on a surreal island.
As the title suggests, they’re bugs but they’re also snacks, so you might be tasked with catching a spider that has chips for legs or a beetle that resembles a burger. And, yes, the whole point is that the islanders can eat them.
Bugsnax works hard to win your affection, with its gently amusing voice-acting, cartoony level design and quirky insects.
The trouble is that the mechanics of snaring the bugs feels clumsy and far too random. You’re handed an assortment of traps and tools to lure your quarry. But they’re frequently awkward to aim and the bugs are as likely to ignore them as wander in as intended.
Children may enjoy Bugsnax initially but will soon lose a taste for it.