ProtoCorgi is a side-scrolling shooter for the Nintendo Switch. This colorful title features a robo-pup who takes on a space-based battle to save the world. Let’s find out if this budget title is worth checking out.

First impressions are good. An animated introduction shows us how a simple corgi became a robotic hero. The cute sprites and retro style continue throughout this colorful adventure, which moves along at a rapid pace.

Gameplay is reminiscent of the bullet hell genre, with all manner of robotic creatures and debris coming at you from all angles. It’s tough, but not the hardest title I’ve ever played. The game occasionally works against itself in ways that can be irritating. For example, it’s hard to differentiate between collectibles and enemies at first. Vegetables are good but bones are apparently deadly. Also, some hit detections seem a little off or at least unclear. Touching walls and floors (sometimes) leads to death, despite not appearing spiky, fiery, or in any way dangerous-looking. Once you know, you just avoid them, but it’s a little annoying as a first impression.

ProtoCorgi - Nintendo Switch

As I said, the sprites look great. Most enemies are robotic versions of aquatic creatures, like fish, crabs, and other crustaceans. Some of these are quite cute, especially the little orange fish that strongly remind me of those featured in Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo. Shooting them seemed slightly cold, yet shoot them we must!

While the action doesn’t let up, there are a few design features that keep things interesting. A stark moment of complete red and black colors is a highlight; I wasn’t sure if the game had glitched, but it was actually because of a self-destruct sequence enabled by the enemy. Warnings and other flashes of text are also interesting along the way. Screen movement is also altered, from the typical left–to-right sequence to moments of vertical and even backward movement. 

Other moments that stand out are boss fights. Giant mech-like robots, some kind of security droid, and an insectoid are among the big baddies you’ll face at the end of each section. Although these are interesting challenges, they feature an odd design quirk that includes both a health bar and a time limit. My initial thought was to defeat the boss before time ran out, but every time you deplete their energy another phase begins. The difficulty ramps up with each new phase, making it easier to simply dodge everything and run out the clock rather than make your enemy angrier and harder.

ProtoCorgi - Nintendo Switch

On the other hand, your robo-dog doesn’t feature a health bar. Instead, you begin with three lives and one continue. After that, it’s game over and you’re forced to restart. You will unlock an extra life and an extra continue if you make it far enough, but this isn’t made clear. That could put off casual gamers who think the game is too unforgiving upfront. 

I don’t mind permadeath, but there are some sections that zapped my lives due to poor level design. In one section, when the screen starts moving backwards, I found myself trapped between walls and lasers with nowhere to go without sacrificing a life. Thankfully, these times were infrequent, but it does make it slightly frustrating when your lives are limited.

Dying also removes any power ups you’ve collected. These are a fun addition to gameplay, with items like homing missiles and lasers that make you much stronger. You can only use these by holding down the attack button, so it eventually becomes more about dodging attacks and steering your pup while your beefed-up weaponry takes care of business.

ProtoCorgi features several modes to keep players busy. The campaign mode is the main game, beginning with a simple tutorial before diving into the action across five sections. After you complete a stage, it becomes available via a separate tutorial mode that lets you practice them one at a time. The most impressive thing about this title, however, is the builder mode. 

A budget title that features a creation mode as robust as ProtoCorgi’s is a fantastic feat. At only $6.99, I would already recommend the game to shooter enthusiasts, despite its minor flaws. Throw in the ability to create your own levels—albeit simple ones—and you’ve got something that could keep you busy for hours. And, yes, your levels can be shared and played online.

ProtoCorgi - Nintendo Switch

Let me stress that, despite my nitpickings, I had a fun time with ProtoCorgi. Shooters are an enjoyable way to game between things like Pikmin 4 or Tears of the Kingdom. They’re also meant to be challenging. In this case, I made it further along each time I played, which gave me a feeling of accomplishment and inspired me to keep trying.

Another positive feature of ProtoCorgi is its kid-friendly rating, which makes it accessible to all audiences. The high difficulty changes things a little, though, as the cuteness belies the onslaught of enemies waiting for you. An option to increase or decrease the difficulty could help balance things out a little.

Overall, ProtoCorgi is a fun shooter that’s deceptively difficult. The builder mode adds some longevity, especially at its budget price. The retro cartoony design is also great, creating an overall enjoyable shooter that stands out from the crowd.