Can charm and appealing visuals carry Dokuro or is this PC port lacking some meat on its bones?
Game Arts is a developer more associated with JRPGs like Grandia and Lunar. Though it has the odd title here and there like Gungriffon: Allied Strike and even development on Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii, we haven’t seen the studio attempt a puzzle platformer like Dokuro. Releasing for the PS Vita first before arriving on iOS and Android, publisher Gungho Online Entertainment decided to bring the fairy tale-esque romp to the PC via Steam. The results are faithful to the original portable title but there are plenty of missed opportunities for the PC port.
Dokuro isn’t too heavy on the story, using it as a set-up to justify the various puzzles and children’s book visuals more than anything else. The Dark Lord captures a princess and marries her. However, as so often happens in these kinds of set-ups, the princess spurns the Dark Lord and cries her eyes out, attracting the sympathy of Dokuro. As a measly little skeleton, Dokuro chooses the goodness in his heart over serving the Dark Lord and attempts to escort the princess out of the castle.
"Dokuro is primarily a puzzle game with some platforming and hack-and-slash elements thrown in. As you traverse the castle, you'll need to find a way for the princess to safely make her from one point to the next."
Again, despite Dokuro not having a very meaty story, it does an excellent job of presenting it. The art-style is simple but incredibly beautiful with a chalky edge to character models and a whimsical but grimy tone to the Dark Lord’s castle. Character animations are nuanced without being distracting. The princess’s frightened shouts and Dokuro’s limited but endearing facial expressions help tether you to the characters. The music is similarly great with its reliance on old folksy, medieval tunes.
Dokuro is primarily a puzzle game with some platforming and hack-and-slash elements thrown in. As you traverse the castle, you’ll need to find a way for the princess to safely make her from one point to the next. This involves hitting and rotating switching, stopping pendulums mid-swing to allow her to cross safely, swatting away enemies and timing your double jumps accordingly.
A magical potion comes into play very early which allows Dokuro to transform into a handsome prince. The transformation is more than just cosmetic as it allows you to effectively slice up foes and carry the princess across areas she’d otherwise be unable to traverse. It also has its disadvantages in that you can’t double jump or jump high while carrying the princess. Dokuro also has access to a magic chalk piece which can be used to connect ropes to platforms – the mouse is also used to rotate switches in given situations.
For all of its simple mechanics, Dokuro finds a ton of different unique puzzles to challenge players. A particular puzzle in the second area has you using the princess’s own movement to trigger a switch in order to shuffle boxes around and make it across (without killing you both, obviously). The typical box pushing puzzles make way for a boss battle wherein you have to shift a box with spikes on top around the battlefield. As the boss lands on it, it will receive damage while being open to your attacks. It’s mechanics like those that make Dokuro a good time-waster in between breaks.
"It doesn't help that Game Arts did next to nothing to appeal to PC gamers with the port. Keep in mind that the original game released roughly 2.5 years ago yet there are no options for higher resolutions or customizable controls."
The problem is that its difficulty doesn’t always follow a steady curve. One minute you could be navigating a level and rotating switches to safely transport the princess across and the next, you’ll be completely befuddled. At its core, Dokuro doesn’t lend itself well to lengthy play sessions. With the lack of overall character or plot development, you’ll find yourself moving from one area to the next, motivated solely by your curiosity in what puzzle lies next. On the PS Vita or mobiles, it’s not a big deal but on the PC, it feels like a certain spark is missing from Dokuro.
It doesn’t help that Game Arts did next to nothing to appeal to PC gamers with the port. Keep in mind that the original game released roughly 2.5 years ago yet there are no options for higher resolutions or customizable controls. Gamepad support is also missing and though Dokuro is easy enough to play on the keyboard, it does tend to feel awkward in some situations – such as when using the mouse for controlling the chalk.
There are also copious amounts of screen tearing in the game and there are no additional graphical options for alleviating this. Dokuro could have at least benefited from the 1080p resolution treatment but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
On the surface, Dokuro is worth checking out and idly playing when you feel like challenging yourself. The pleasing aesthetics and music ensure a fun experience each time, aside from the odd few irritating times you’ll have with some of the puzzles. It’s just a shame that Game Arts didn’t do anything to make it truly stand out in the crowded PC space.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Unique art style and pleasing music. Complex and fresh puzzles in many instances. Simple yet appealing mechanics are easy to pick up.
Some repetition in gameplay. Difficulty doesn't scale properly. No graphics options and ample screen tearing.
Dokuro makes its unorthodox presence known on PC and while more responsibility could have been taken in porting, it's a fun, cutesy romp with an ample amount of challenge.
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