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Dokuro

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: GungHo Online Entertainment America
Developer: Game Arts
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle/ Platformer (2D)

Graphics & Sound:

Dokuro looks like a children's storybook, illustrated and animated on a chalkboard. Through this unique aesthetic, a stubby little skeleton is rendered, one of the most endearing characters in a long time. As a whole, Dokuro is bizarre and beautiful all at once. The animation is a bit stiff, making the action feel like something out of a Flash game, but it contributes to the storybook aesthetic nicely.

Dokuro's sound design isn't on par with its visuals, and that's mainly the fault of its annoying soundtrack. It follows the cliches of the children's story set in a medieval world. If you're not down with lots of tooting on the flutes and a handful of organ chords every now and then, you'll probably be irritated by the music. Sound effects are just about right. Bones clatter, monsters shriek when slain, and chalk sounds like... well, chalk.


Gameplay:

A princess has been captured by a Dark Lord. Haven't seen that before, right? Well, here's what you haven't seen: one of the Dark Lord's little skeletal goons ends up going soft for the poor girl and decides to help her escape. But here's the problem: she cannot see him.

Dokuro is essentially a portable twist on the Ico formula. That translates to "one giant escort mission." Don't get too frightened: Dokuro is actually pretty decent. The main rules are simple: get the little skeleton and his female charge through a series of rooms littered with booby traps and other obstacles. You only control the little skeleton; the princess moves on her own. This creates a bunch of problems in the long run, but more on that later. The gameplay is nowhere near best in class, but its enticing world does a commendable job of drawing you in.


Difficulty:

Dokuro isn't very threatening at first, but after a while, it gets rough. These are puzzles that include the possibility of getting stuck, but what's worse is that the game does not tell you when you've reached this point. Timing is often extremely important, and when you have to trust the artificial intelligence, that's a sign of a tough level. However, Dokuro is inconsistently difficult; you'll run into your fair share of pushover puzzles that bookend some of the most brutal of them. I suppose it's better that way.

There's a reason people tend to hate escort missions in games. All too often, too much is out of your control, and this element of chaos usually leads to frustration. Dokuro has a major problem in the object of its primary quest: the princess is too stupid to live. I found myself putting words into her mouth: "Oh no! That elevator is about to crush me, but if I run, I'll tear my dress!" Seriously. This game leads me to believe that Dokuro himself is a profoundly shallow being. Oh well, maybe he likes his women dumb.


Game Mechanics:

Dokuro plays like a simple two-dimensional platformer at first. You run, jump, double jump, and press a context-sensitive button to work levers and cranks. But Dokuro is not about getting yourself to the end of each level -- it's about getting the princess there. This task is not always as easy as it seems. But it isn't always brutal and unforgiving either.

So the princess cannot see you. How the heck are you supposed to help her? Well, there's a number of ways to do so. First, you have full control over certain environmental points of interest. If there's an elevator above the princess, it's too much to ask her to jump -- you must find a way to bring it down to her level. The princess is dumb as a post, but she will never willingly walk into a pit of spikes or march defiantly towards something that is clearly out to kill her. So exploration is often quite possible, as well as a recommended strategy. Charging headlong into the unknown with the princess is a recipe for failure.

Dokuro isn't just about running, jumping, and interacting. Sometimes you will have to establish your presence or protect the princess. Early in the game, the skeleton is given a special potion that turns him into a dashing prince, complete with sword. The effect is temporary, but it regenerates when you are not using it. You can also pick the princess up when in this form. The only downside is in the decreased mobility. The magic doesn't end there, either. You earn chalk powers as the game progresses. You can draw certain things into the environment with white chalk to solve puzzles, use a red chalk line to act as a conduit for fire, and blue chalk for... can you see where I'm going with this?

Charm holds most of the appeal in this puzzle platformer, but the gameplay just can't live up to the rest of it. Dokuro is entertaining, lengthy, charming, and frustrating -- and not necessarily in that order.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

iPad Whisper of Fear: Cursed Doll HD Sony PlayStation 3 007 Legends

 
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