When my boss, Android Central's own Daniel Bader, had asked if I had any plans for Google Doodle Champion Island, I had no idea what it was. I don't really use Google's homepage anymore, choosing to type my inquiries into the search bar and let Chrome do the rest. I reckon a lot of other people are in the same boat, and you could be missing out on a great browser game for a limited time.
To celebrate the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Google teamed up with Tokyo-based animation studio Studio 4°C to deliver the Doodle Champion Island games, a wholly interactive doodle available straight through your web browser on Google's homepage. That may sound underwhelming, but Doodle Champion Island is anything but. It's a surprisingly competent and fun game that evokes memories of early SNES or Game Boy titles.
Players can take part in seven different activities: table tennis, artistic swimming, climbing, archery, rugby, skateboarding, and marathon. Using only the arrow keys and the spacebar you'll be able to complete each game, making it a lot more accessible to a wider audience. And though the controls are simple, it can be deceptively hard to win a match and beat each reigning champion. This is a good thing, though, because it means anyone can pick it up and put however much time into it as they please, whether it be a few minutes or a couple of hours.
I took to table tennis fairly quickly, and, in my opinion, it's one of the easier games to beat. Something like rugby gave me more trouble. Even though I only had to move back and forth to pass the ball, the opponents caught up to me fast. It took me several tries before I could complete the 100 meter sprint to the end without losing the ball.
Doodle Champion Island isn't only about those seven events, though. There are plenty of side quests to complete and Easter eggs to uncover. Sometimes it's as simple as helping an NPC carry a trophy to a nearby building or picking up five arrows around the town, but others require more exploration to find. Google and Studio 4°C could have easily phoned it in and made a cheap homepage gimmick, but it's clear that a lot of thought and effort went into this to make it engaging for players.
For anybody who is a bit more competitive, there's even a real-time leaderboard between four different teams. Think of it like the teams in Pokémon Go; you can choose between Blue, Red, Green, and Yellow. As I'm writing this, currently Red and Yellow have the most points, with Green falling far behind. It's unclear if there's any sort of prize at the end for the winning team, but it's a neat addition nonetheless that revs up the competitive nature in a lot of us.
In a few short hours I've gone from never having heard of the game to opening up Google whenever I get a chance to play another round. That's something that can be said for the likes of the best Android games around, and what limited time titles like this should aspire to do. Make it a game that people want to pick up whenever they can throughout their workday or whenever they have some free time at home. Because it plays through Google's homepage, all of your gameplay is cached and saved so that you can close out of your browser and hop right back in where you left off at any moment. It's also timely, cashing in on people's enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for the Olympic Games.
If you haven't given it a shot yet or were confused as to what that new Google homepage is all about, this is it, and it's a whole lot of fun.
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Jennifer Locke has been playing video games nearly her entire life. You can find her posting pictures of her dog and obsessing over PlayStation and Xbox, Star Wars, and other geeky things.