Publisher: GungHo Online Entertainment
Platform: PS Vita (PSN)
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Vita owners are slowly gaining a nice library of games to play, but there“s very little for puzzle fans to get excited about. Puzzle games might not be viewed often as massively important to a console library, but sometimes they can end up being amazing. Hits like the original Tetris and Portal definitely showed that these games can captivate everyone, and in a way, it seems like Dokuro is a game for the larger Vita-owning audience.
Dokuro is a simple game focused around a small skeleton who wants to help a princess on her travels through a castle. She has been placed there by a demonic king who plans on wedding her. Although your character is a simple underling, he musters up the courage to get her out. Weirdly enough, the princess can not even see the skeleton most of the time. It“s only when you use a magical potion to transform into a prince that she perks up and pays attention.
The game“s story is far from the most important thing about it. Mainly, you“re going to be focusing on gameplay which is related to your little skeleton and the princess he“s aiding. On a 2D plane, you must progress from left to right with the lady by your side. Each level itself is fairly small and the only requirement is to get both characters over to a flower, which signifies the end of a stage. As you might expect, this is easier said than done.
In order to make it from level to level you“re going to have to solve puzzle after puzzle. While levels initially start out simple, they quickly grow in difficulty. At the start, all you really have to do is push boxes or lower platforms to get the princess to the goal. Because she cannot jump or walk up steep inclines on her own, your goal will basically always be to give her flat ground to walk across on each stage. Sometimes it may seem impossible but there are always ways to do it.
Of course, pushing blocks and using levers aren't the only features of the game. First, there is the potion which makes you a prince, as was mentioned earlier. This isn“t just for fun, though, as it serves the purpose of allowing you to carry the princess. This is useful at times when you need to move her with specific timing, such as through moving obstacles. There are also other additions such as colored chalk. Red chalk works to bring fire to objects such as explosive barrels or candle lights. These features all end up being integral to certain puzzles or to defeat enemies.
Enemies in the game are varied but you“ll tend to see the same set of faces over and over. There are monsters who will die with a quick hit, but others are much more of a challenge. Sometimes, they can“t even be beaten easily, but require the help of environmental objects. Although they add more challenge, it almost feels like they aren“t necessary when there are such great level-based puzzles going on. They usually aren“t a hindrance, but the developers probably would have had no trouble simply making puzzles difficult without the aid of creatures bumbling around.
It“s a fairly simple game overall, but level and puzzle design get it to be quite complex. Oftentimes there will be barriers to progressing, such as walls, enemies, spike pits, and more. Everything in the game works against you in an attempt to make puzzles harder to solve. Although it is often easy to grasp what you need to do, it“s harder to get things in the right order to carry out the plan. Dokuro even becomes a frustrating experience at times when you“re well on your way to completing a level and then come across a fault in your plan that wasn“t anticipated. Still, these mistakes show that the design is tightly woven and leaves little room for error.
Those who dislike having to think, or to work quick, will probably dislike it. For everyone else though, it becomes an addicting experience. When levels typically only last from 30 seconds to a minute, you“re going to have all the time you need to play through a bunch, or simply play a little bit at a time. Being on the Vita is a big plus for the game as it“s the perfect kind of game for a portable system. Even though stages are brief, this doesn“t mean they all will be. The first time you encounter a particularly difficult puzzle will probably require a great deal more minutes with loads of failed attempts to solve it. Thankfully, the really tough stuff is sprinkled through and doesn“t all hit you one after the other.
After a while, and some truly tough sections, you“ll begin to really get into the flow of Dokuro. Instead of feeling like you have no clue for solving something, strategies will start to form easier. The act of playing helps you master it and manage to have even more fun. Even when you reach this point, at about the halfway mark, you will still have loads of worthwhile levels ahead of you. Despite being a handheld title, it still manages to give you about 20 hours of gameplay (more if you“re trying to get top times on each level).
Although the game itself is solid, some choices around how it was implemented on the Vita are not. For one, the basic method to transform into a price requires you to tap touch sections of the system twice in quick succession. This is fine, except when you“re trying to turn into him and require 100% certainty the transformation will occur. Often, it doesn“t. Thankfully, you can edit it so the move is triggered with the right bumper. Similarly, there is an enemy in the game who clouds the screen with white chalk. In order to get rid of it you must wipe furiously at the touch screen for a while. Sometimes, after clearing the screen, it will happen again because you were unable to see the creature to kill it in time. It“s fairly frustrating and could have definitely been cut down.
Strangely, there are also features you might expect to interface with the Vita that don“t. For example, none of the menu objects can be touched to activate. This isn“t particularly a complaint, but it does feel weird after entering the game from the touch-based Vita interface. Also, the D-pad isn“t mapped to anything so don“t expect to use it for menus or during game. That“s all up to the analog stick. These things don“t hurt the game unless you“re entirely devoted to touch screen, but it“s worth noting.
Really, with such little to criticize, Dokuro shines as a great Vita title. Not only is it a great game in general, but it manages to be the perfect type of game for a handheld system. Puzzle fans will get the most out of it, but others may find it an addicting title to chip away at. If you“re a Vita owner whose device is currently collecting dust then give the game a shot. Dokuro may just become the reason you start actually using it again.
+ Top-notch puzzle design
+ Easy to start, but tough enough to be rewarding
+ Full of puzzles that take around 20 hours to complete
- Standard enemies are a mostly unnecessary addition
- Touch controls can be frustrating at times
Overall Score: 8 (Out of 10)
Dokuro is a wonderfully-designed puzzle game to grace the Vita.