Review: Dokuro (PlayStation Vita)

Just like playing a Tim Burton.... game?

Out of all the oddball, unique games to grace Sony’s PlayStation Vita, Dokuro certainly takes the cake for the most arrestingly charming.

Designed to be a simple puzzle/platformer, the Japanese developed handheld title sports a chalk-like, gothic Tim Burton visual style that just drips charm, making it stand out amidst all the generic same-same PlayStation 3 ‘wannabe’ titles being released for Vita.

But is a unique visual style enough to justify you buying into the experience Dokuro offers? Read on and find out!

The Review

For what story Dokuro offers, it’s overly simple yet ever so charming. The generally nasty, and all evil, Dark Lord has kidnapped a beautiful princess and has had her brought to his gigantic castle. Once within the stone walls, the Dark Lord attempts to force her into marriage, making the princess start to cry. Shortly after she’s spotted by a humble skeleton guard, Dokuro, who decides to help her escape.

Despite his gallant effort, Dokuro is unable to be seen by his new beloved, the princess, yet persists in aiding her escape. The result is a series of interconnected levels where you need to safely navigate the princess from point A to point B, all while keeping yourself alive.

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From a design perspective, Dokuro is not unlike another one of the PlayStation Vita’s downloadable titles, Escape Plan. In the latter players need to safely navigate their way through a series of obstacle rooms, as well as often guiding a secondary character. Possibly the biggest difference here is, Dokuro tends to be slightly more engaging, thanks to is rather unique chalk-like visuals, and oddball, almost Tim Burton, charm. Further, gameplay is far more enjoyable, and more well designed, even if doesn’t push any boundaries for the genre.

At heart Dokuro feels like a platformer, and a well designed one at that. Despite the Vita’s sometimes hit and miss analog stick, gameplay feels smooth, fluid and most importantly, very responsive. Since you’re having to overcome some rather dangerous obstacles precision is vital in Dokuro.

Danger can, and will, come in many forms, ranging from run of the mill grunts, to axe wielding guards to hulking bosses. To combat all these nasties, Dokuro can become a hunky prince by drinking magic potion, who is capable of lashing out with his trusty sword, cutting down all in his path.

However, I should point out that combat isn’t at all this game’s strong point, something that becomes evident with each of boss fights. Each encounter is repetitive, and feels overly mundane compared to the challenging, well-thought out puzzles littered through each of Dokuro‘s levels.

On average each of the 140 plus levels in the game will take you under two minutes to complete – perfect for a handheld game – but this really boils down to how much brain power you invest. I found myself breezing through a handful at a time, only to be stopped dead for upwards of five to ten minutes on a single level. In these situations it’s all about seeing the pattern, and what steps you need to make in order to get to the solution. Dokoru features a lot of trail and error, though thanks to its ‘pick up and play’ nature the experience never wears too thin.

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I’ve got to say, Dokuro makes a reasonably solid attempt at using all of the unique gameplay features of the PlayStation Vita. The front and rear touch panels are certainly a strength of the unit, one that is used frequently here by way of drawing lines using different colour chalk, each with their own effect, as well as allowing you to change Dokuro’s form.

What really is by far the most enjoyable aspect of Dokuro is how new gameplay elements are introduced at a steady pace. As you’d expect this helps keep the game feeling fresh, as you’re having to learn to incorporate new elements all the time.

This isn’t just restricted to gameplay elements, such as the ‘prince’ form or a new chalk colour, but to environmental elements that need to be studied, so you can learn how to overcome them. After being introduced the game continuously cranks it up before either letting it slip away slightly or introducing something new entirely.

By now it must be pretty clear that Dokuro‘s visual style both appears as if it was drawn with chalk, and looks like a Tim Burton film. The result is one of the most unique looking games in the Vita’s roster, complete with equally unique character designs. Dokuro himself is unbearably cute for a skeleton, and the enemy designs are both interesting and themselves unique – especially some of the ‘cooler’ looking bosses. I’d recommend this to any Vita owner in a second just so they too can witness the imaginative character designs.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy, though overly challenging, game to play on your Vita while out and about, you certainly can’t go wrong with Dokuro. It’s only a shame the game is betrayed by the inclusion of some highly repetitive boss battles. Still, its chalk-like, Tim Burton, aesthetic makes this one game worthy of both your time and money.

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Addictive, challenging and just a little bit creepy, Dokuro is a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle/platformer, even if it doesn’t push any boundaries on the PlayStation Vita.

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Presentation:
Gameplay:
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Overall Impression:
7.8
Good
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