Saving a princess is never an easy task, especially when she can’t even see you. Dokuro is a charming 2D puzzle platform game with a few action elements. You play as Dokuro, a little skeleton henchman who falls in love with a captured princess and wishes to save her. Most puzzles involve you overcoming obstacles and getting the princess from the entrance of the level to the end, while she walks continuously to the right, if unobstructed. So let’s break this down.
The gameplay is very spot on and all the controls are very responsive. You are tasked with getting the princess to the end of the level by any means necessary. This involves pushing boxes to make bridges, pulling levers, turning cranks by rotating the stick clockwise or anti-clockwise, igniting explosive barrels to bring down weak walls and floors, and many other challenges. The princess will continuously walk the correct direction unless her path is blocked, or not flat. A few levels in, you get a magical potion that allows you to transform into a prince for a short period of time, allowing you to fight baddies, cut ropes, and carry the princess. You also get three different types of chalk as you progress that you use with the touchscreen. A white chalk that you can use to create ropes, making suspended walkways, a red chalk that lets you control fire to light candles, cannons, and explosive barrels, and a blue chalk that allows you flood an area with water, making it possible to make wooden boxes float, plants grow, and inadvertently drown yourself or the princess. Unfortunately, the white and blue chalk play a very minor role in gameplay, and feel like an after-thought, as only a few puzzles are used with them. The prince and skeleton each have their strengths and weaknesses, for example, the skeleton can double jump and fit in smaller spaces than the prince, while the prince can carry the princess and kill enemies while the skeleton can only knock enemies away. The only real problem with the controls is in order to transform from skeleton to prince, you have to tap twice on the back touchpad, and then twice on the front to transform back. Luckily, you can remap the transformation to the R button, and I can’t recommend it more.
Little Dokuro is a skeleton henchman of the Dark Lord who has captured the princess to make his wife. Dokuro hears the poor princess crying and decides to help her escape the Dark Lord’s castle. The princess can’t even see the little guy, so all she does is walk on. Dokuro then happens upon a magical potion that transforms him into a handsome prince for a short period of time, enabling the princess to see him while in this form. The story is very picture book-esque, where cutscenes with subtitles are played, and animation is very still. It is a cute although cliché story of love, princesses and curses that I found myself enjoying. You will get that warm fuzzy feeling upon completion.
Everything is done in a chalkboard style that I found myself enjoying a lot. Almost all of the backgrounds are black and white, and all colors used are very muted, save for the fire and water effects. The background changes to color when switching to the prince, also. Some would say that the background and art style is boring and minimal, but I never got sick of it, personally. I thought it was a very unique and interesting art style. It suits the game very well. I think more games should try an interesting art style like this.
The music is cute and simple, but really captures the level designs. There is a separate music for each part of the castle. (Stage 4-1 has the same music as stage 4-9, and stage 5-1 will start with a different music, for example.) Unfortunately, there isn’t much to the music, and upon being stuck on a puzzle for half-an-hour, it can really grate on one’s nerves sometimes.
There are around 140 stages and 7 bosses. Hidden in almost every stage is a coin that you can find, and there are trophies for collecting certain amounts and all of them. 95% of the coins are in spots that are easy to get, mostly just involving taking a few seconds to jump to a platform you wouldn’t need to to otherwise complete the level while the other 5% of the coins actually are a puzzle in themselves. It adds another level of play, which is enjoyable, as I found myself (personally) unable to complete the stages if I didn’t also collect the coins. There are trophies for completing all of the stages under a certain amount of time, but upon completing the game, I was quick enough to unlock both of those trophies. Depending on how good you are at puzzle games, it will probably take you between 10-20 hours to complete. I obtained the platinum trophy in about 15 and half hours.
The puzzles range from simple to mind-bogglingly difficult, and most worlds have there own separate difficulty curve(Stage 8-2 might be quite a bit easier than stage 7-7, for example). Some puzzles you can complete without even thinking, while others will cause you to strain your brain for a half-hour. Either way, the game trains you in everything you need to know before you take on a puzzle, so you generally will know what you have to do, just not how to do it. I would often be kicking myself for trying to find out a complex solution, when the answer was much simpler than I thought. The game also allows you ten skips, where if a puzzle is too difficult, you can skip it and come back to it later. I could never in good conscience do that though, it made me feel like less of a gamer if I would skip the hard parts.
Why the Vita?
This game is great on the Vita. The only Vita-specific controls it uses are the touchscreen, but as with most Vita games, it looks right at home on the 5” OLED screen. The controls are sharp and responsive, except for the double touch transform feature. (Seriously, remap that to the R button in the options.) The reason this game is so great on the Vita is the way the game is laid out. You can pop open your Vita and solve a puzzle in a couple of minutes, or sit down for an hour or two and power through a bunch. I would find myself putting down my Vita when I was stuck, only to open it up a few minutes later, thinking “I have to try that for this puzzle! It might be the solution!”
The Bottom Lines
- Fun, addictive puzzles.
- Beautiful and unique presentation.
- Perfect blend of sit down and play, and just play for a few moments.
- Perfect match for the Vita.
- Forgettable and sometimes annoying music.
- A sometimes unforgivable and unbalanced difficulty curve
- Cliché story, don’t expect a nail biter.
- Some mechanics feel like an afterthought.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10
Definitely a title any Vita owner should have, especially a fan of puzzle games. Available only on the PlayStation Store unless you purchase in Japan, although Dokuro has been ported to PCs as well. Check it out!