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Boing Docomodake

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment USA
Developer: AQ Interactive
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Puzzle/ Platformer/ Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

If you were wondering what's behind the Boing Docomodake name, it comes from a Japanese cell company, Docomo. Docomo's mascot is the main character in this neat little game, and the "boing" part has to do with the way you'll navigate through the game. It's a funny notion, a mainstream game featuring the mascot from a company most people don't know in the US. In the end, none of this matters; Boing Docomodake is a good game, regardless of its corporate provenance.

Boing Docomodake is an eye-catching game, with a distinct look that makes people stick around to see what happens next. The levels are not incredibly novel in their design, but the Docomodake characters are almost impossibly cute. Each stage features original music that goes way beyond tinny ice-cream-truck ditties and never falls into that annoying Techno/Synth rut most games fall into for lack of inspiration. In a game where every level is a creative, problem-solver's dream, the surroundings become part of the gameplay. What you see is always what you get in Boing Docomodake, as you are introduced gradually to all the various gameplay elements. Obvious visual influences are old-school games like Dig Dug or chase/maze games like Pac-Man, combined with the newer aesthetic of imported vinyl figures and anime-inspired toys. Boing Docomodake is a bit unusual for the DS in that all its action happens on just one screen. This makes it simple to follow the action, but limits the potential to create more complex puzzles.


Gameplay:

Basic rules can often lead to a complex sequence of events and possibilities, as any chess player knows. In the case of Boing Docomodake, nothing more than a "pawn" is required to set up some interesting puzzles. You'll start the game with a very basic goal: recover the members of your family that have gone missing. To do this, you'll need to use special Docomodake powers. The most basic is to split off a little Docomodake. These tiny fellows can be incredibly useful, and the game proceeds to take advantage of your unique qualities, while playing to your limitations. Enemies are everywhere, blocking you from reaching your family. You'll need to exercise that space between your ears if you hope to gather the Docomodake flock and see the credits roll.

Playing the game as quickly as possible means you'll run through without care for your score, and in this fashion, the later levels may not seem to provide a substantially greater challenge. If you pay attention, you'll notice that the grade you get for levels you casually blow through is often quite low. Earning the "A" or "B" grade demands a combination of speed and attention to detail. Each level contains a number of coins and treasure chests you can raid, but you can't dilly-dally as you move through the level. Aiming for higher scores provides some replay value to what would otherwise be a quick trip, especially given the lack of any real multiplayer. Sharing a demo wirelessly doesn't qualify in my book as a multiplayer mode, but that's all you get in Boing Docomodake. Finding a way to implement real multiplayer in a future title would really be a sweet addition.


Difficulty:

The overall challenge here is mild enough that younger players of almost any ability will have fun. Scoring top grades requires a different kind of ability, probably something that the older, more experienced gamers will possess. Early in the game, each level contains a single major challenge, teaching you how to overcome that particular obstacle. An example might be using the little Docomodake to build a bridge across an otherwise impassable space, or learning how they can be used as counterweights on platforms attached to pulleys. The major difference in later levels is that you'll reach points where a wrong move literally means you'll have to restart the level. This won-or-done approach is only introduced in the final stages, when the expectation is that you'll have mastered the basics enough to know how to get yourself through the gauntlet. Some twitch reflexes are required, but only mild platforming skills are required here. At times, you will realize you are working harder than you need to, when using your little helpers could get the job done more easily. Boing Docomodake is a game that would benefit tremendously from an online sharing mode or an editor, to allow for greater challenge and a longer lifespan. As it stands, you'll run through and be done with Boing Docomodake sooner than you'd like, assuming you're over the age of 10.

Game Mechanics:

Controls take a bit of getting used to here. The assumption made in Boing Docomodake is that you'll basically be holding the stylus in your hand at all times. The D-pad is used to move, and will prompt a jump when tapped up. A roll motion can be triggered by a double-tap to the right or left. Other elements of control in the game are left to the stylus, including the movement of all your small Docomodake. There would be a neat game here if you were allowed to switch control over to the Docomodake minis, but the constraint of having to move them entirely by touch makes for some neat challenges. The later levels will feature mechanisms that require you to place a mini over a switch in order to allow you to pass later in the level. The camera stays fixed on you unless you unlock it and scroll around the level. This scrolling feature allows you to ensure your minis are correctly placed, and avoid stepping into a dead end. The downer in all of this is trying to control directional jumps with the D-pad; it just never feels that great. The fact that this wasn't more of a focus shows that the designers expected gamers to use the minis rather than traditional platforming skills, but the places where you have to do lots of precision jumping break the generally smooth pace of Boing Docomodake.

Room for improvement, but who can't say that? What's here is top-notch and fun to play. The characters (and even the enemies) are endearing and will be an instant hit for kids. The puzzle challenges here are lighter weight than in games like Professor Layton or Zack and Wiki, but there's enough meat on the bone to make Boing Docomodake enjoyable for just about anyone. Give this one a try and you won't be disappointed.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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