The first thing you will notice about Dokuro is the charming chalk board style art design and unfortunately that may be the only charming thing about Dokuro, A puzzle platformer for the Vita which already doesn’t have enough good platformers as it is. Looking at just the bare bones (no pun intended) story of Dokuro it really reminds me of Super Mario Bros. You play as Dokuro who is this small skeleton character who is attempting to rescue a princess from the boss of the game simply known as Dark Lord. Replace Dokuro with Mario and Dark Lord with Bowser and voila you have Super Mario. The main difference would be that Super Mario Bros. was actually fun to play. Dokuro is a pretty hardcore puzzle game as even early on some of the puzzles are a little trick or just plain hard. If you are a diehard puzzle platformer fiend looking for a challenge then Dokuro may be for you but for most people this may just be a frustrating and mostly boring experience.
Each level of Dokuro has the exact same premise. Guide the princess through an area of death traps by solving the puzzle. The princess constantly moves forward on her path and doesn’t stop for much. You don’t have to worry about her walking off any ledges into a bottomless pit but she will step into fire or spikes if you aren’t quick enough. Apparently the princess will find escape any way she can. So your goal as Dokuro is to figure out the puzzles and help guide the princess safely to the flower at the end of the stage.
There is a small story set up where the Dark Lord has kidnapped the princess for himself and Dokuro decides to set her free and lead her out of the castle. Unfortunatly the castle is full of death trap puzzles so you have to step on switches or move boxes to make sure the path is safe. There are other enemies that get in your path so you have a simple melee attack that you can use to knock back enemies into pits before they reach the princess. However you do get a power up to help you in combat which turns you into your human form of that of a dashing prince with an actual sword that you can use to kill enemies and bosses. In this form you can also pick up the princess which leads to some puzzle moments that feel weird where you have to pick her up and move quickly to get into areas before they shift and it just ends up feeling like I broke the game instead of doing what I was supposed to.
There is also a gameplay mechanic that involves using your finger to draw chalk lines to connect items in puzzles but is only used in specific circumstances and really just seems like a gimmick and doesn’t anything really unique to the game. It feels like a mechanic that would be better if they allowed you to use it whenever you wanted to make the puzzles a little more interesting. One thing I will say about this game is that it is very long. There are one hundred puzzles in the game and they get even more challenging as you progress but this really feels like a quantity or quality approach.
The best thing I will say about Dokuro is that the chalkboard art style is charming. The problem is that even though the art style is really unique and interesting the game moves so stiffly that it doesn’t always remain pleasurable to look at. Some of the animations in this game look very stilted and just like they made the game move enough so that it could play. While there isn’t a lot of emphasis on the appearance and motion it could be argued that this was meant to be part of the art style or that the focus was shifted towards the puzzles but it just makes the game look rushed or broken. I like the angle they were trying to approach with the game cause I love the idea of a game looking like it was designed on someone’s driveway with chalk but it doesn’t do much to hold up the game.
This game has a ton of puzzles to play through. Unfortunately most of them I found to be boring or extremely challenging. I had very little fun playing this game and that was a bummer as I started out enjoying my time but by the time I even made it to the second world I felt like I was done with the game and the rest was just a grind. A lot of the puzzles just ended up frustrating me and the game has a very floaty feel to the jumping that causes some issues with the platforming that are unforgivable. I do believe that there is an audience for this game out there but I think the Vita was maybe the wrong choice of platform for this game as there already aren’t a lot of Vita’s out there and this game is aimed at a very specific audience that probably isn’t very big on its own.
The gameplay isn’t the only thing I had a problem with however. The music in this game is very bad and is constantly repeating itself. This would be a better game if you play it completely muted and just listened to music instead. Also this game has no way of conveying story with any kind of voice or text and instead relies on pictures which is fine but those pictures did not in any way make me feel like I knew what was going on. I think this is a perfectly reasonable approach to take if it’s implemented appropriately but it just ends up feeling lazy and uninspired here.
Dokuro feels like an idea with a lot of passion and little effort in its execution. It’s jam packed full of puzzles and has a really unique art style but for twenty dollars, and even when weighing the pros and cons, it’s hard to recommend this game on a console that has so few games right now where people have to think about what they are getting for their money. Anyone who is a hard core puzzle fan that loves a challenge may find some enjoyment in this game but it seems like a title that would be worth waiting for a sale to buy it. With challenging and stiff gameplay and excruciating boss battles you wouldn't be missing much if you decided to pass up Dokuro.