Platform: PS Vita

I was just thinking the other day that game stories have become grandiose and somewhat complex as technology has evolved, not many have relied on the old style of story telling found in classical literature or even movies. In other words, I didn’t think there were any stories left based on saving a princess an in video games (Other than Mario Bros., of course!). However, Dokuro serves as a combo breaker.

 photo dokuro-03_zps185eada4.jpgIn the game you play a little skeleton minion called Dokuro, who is part of the vast evil army of the Dark Lord. The Dark Lord has captured a beautiful princess, and one day you set your eyes on her. At first, Dokuro doesn’t care much for the princess until he realizes that the Dark Lord is pretty much a jerk to everyone, so to spite the Dark Lord, Dokuro frees the princess and tries to escape with her.

It’s a pretty simple story, but the charm is still there. The depiction of the story using a quasi-shadow puppet cardboard cutout style animation is pretty unique and in some cases beautiful. Although the game is pretty grey, it effectively looks as if every character was penciled in frame-by-frame as well as giving a somewhat grim, yet light, atmosphere due to its cartoonish nature – A fantastic balance overall.

Gameplay is also relatively simple, however not to be taken lightly. The levels are broken down into stages similar to Super Meat Boy's level stage segmentation. A typical stage consists of you escorting the princess (who walks automatically like on a conveyer belt!) whilst defending her or figuring out complex puzzles to help her traverse gaps or deadly objects to get her to the end of the stage.

 photo dokuro-01_zps1b8539d8.jpgTo do this, you are aided by the ability to transform into a skeleton prince who can use the art of swordplay to fend off the Dark Lord’s army or carry the princess faster across dangerous areas. However, most of the time you will be playing as Dokuro’s normal small default body shape to allow yourself to jump higher and fit into small gaps to complete the game's puzzles.

For the most part, the puzzles are quite complex or very time sensitive. It reminded me of Lemmings but with even more attention to manipulating the environment. In many cases, Dokuro utilizes the PS Vita’s touch screen to create a long fuse from a barrel of gunpowder, so that you can detonate the barrel in a timely fashion.

I liked how the touch screen features were implemented in this game - they actually felt necessary in the sense that they aided you in completing puzzles. However, there are some pretty unfair elements to the overall gameplay. For example, hit detection is very sensitive, especially in regard to your character’s placement between (for example) a moving platform. If you're a pixel within that said moving platform when it comes down, even a tiny little bit, your character will instantly die – Pretty unfair.

The same applies for pits. There are plenty of bottomless or spiked pits throughout the game. The detection of moving a barrel or block into a pit is a little too accurate - in other words you can have a box with 99% of it’s entire shape hovering over the precipice of the pit and it won’t go in – you have to push it completely so it falls in. This is an old school game mechanic, and it can be more of a hindrance than a fond reminiscence.

However I must stress the puzzles are for the most part very satisfying as the game progresses. Saving the princess, when it works, is a really gratifying experience – Yet again, another example of trial over adversity and the feeling of victory that comes with it. It really all feels worth it in the end.

Musically the game is lovely at first, but it loops constantly and after awhile can come over a bit like a flash or iOS game.

 photo dokuro-02_zps46c74865.jpgI would say the most stand out points in the game is when you meet the end of level bosses. They are brilliantly designed and the solution to defeating them is just as ingenious as some of the puzzles. The animation and overall boss design is extremely well done for a game that appears this simple.

Overall, Dokuro really serves well in being a great portable game. It’s one of those games you play on the move, completing level puzzles stage-by-stage. The artwork, animation and overall atmosphere of the game make it like a dark fantasy children’s book with pop-up book characters come to life.

Definitely a game every PS Vita owner should give a spin. Anyone who loves platform games with a puzzle solving element will feel right at home with Dokuro.