Have you ever wondered what happens when the hero fails to save the day and the princess is left doomed to marry the Dark Lord or become his prisoner for all eternity? Well, enter Dokuro, the puzzle game for the Nintendo Switch, which seeks to answer just that.
Dokuro follows the tiny skeleton protagonist who, after meeting the Princess for the first time, decides that he will abandon his life of evil to help her escape her terrible fate. As the titular skeleton, you must switch between your skeletal form and the gallant hero form, each complete with their own set of skills, to navigate through the Dark Lord’s castle across 16 puzzle-packed stages, defeating the many evil inhabitants that stand between you and your goal.
Not only is the game a fun twist on traditional hero stories, but it also fuses humour and romance into its short and sweet story to help tug on your heartstrings between stages, further endearing itself to players, and I must admit, there were more than a few moments where I found myself laughing at some of the jokes.
Something truly special in Dokuro is how the game not only feels like a child’s storybook – it looks like one too! The art direction is stunning, like a chalk drawing come to life, with the environments and the characters taking on an uncanny feel that’s both endearing and unnerving. Dokuro is far from a bright and colourful affair, but colour is used sparingly to emphasise key gameplay mechanics like the character’s health, or environmental hazards like water. It’s a small feature that goes a long way in setting a sense of identity for the small skeleton’s adventure.
The game arguably looks and performs best in handheld mode, as, in docked mode, the game often appears a little blurry, with certain environments and assets taking a major hit in quality. Due to some mandatory touch mechanics being required to help solve puzzles in certain levels, handheld mode is by far the preferable way to play.
As a puzzle game, Dokuro is pretty fun and is quite ambitious in what it sets out to accomplish. Its puzzles are generally well thought out and executed, even if they do sometimes outstay their welcome, and there are a tonne of levels to play through. Each stage relies on a unique defining gimmick, ranging from using chalks of different colours to create ropes, move fire or create water, to switches that shift gravity itself to allow Dokuro and the Princess to make their escape. There’s a lot to get to grips with here, but it seldom feels overwhelming, instead feeling well paced with mechanics being introduced steadily to avoid overwhelming players.
With so many tools to fall back on, one of Dokuro’s biggest strengths is how the puzzles can range from a walk in the park that can be breezed through easily in a matter of seconds to some fiendish brain-bogglers that really ingrain a sense of satisfaction when you finally reach that eureka moment. Most stages will ease you in gently before hitting you with a big brain-buster, but it does vary from stage to stage. This variation in difficulty is far from consistent, however, as I found that the stage-to-stage difficulty could fluctuate wildly. Difficulty spikes come at random intervals, but it does mean that even the most hardened puzzle game fan will likely find something here to keep them occupied.
For those who struggle with puzzle games, however, and are afraid that Dokuro might pose too much of a challenge for them, worry not! Dokuro has an in-built skip mechanic, allowing you to skip up to ten puzzles at any time, meaning that if the fun turns to frustration, you can take matters into your own hands and get to the next level, advancing that little bit further towards your final goal.
While Dokuro starts strong, the sheer number of levels means that many ideas are recycled over and over, leading to the game feeling stale in the later stages. Some levels are almost copy-and-pasted versions of one another only with some small variations to try and keep things fresh, which doesn’t always work. I often found myself recognising a similarly designed stage and switching to autopilot, removing the puzzle-solving aspect all together.
To make matters worse, the replay value of this game is hampered by the nature of its puzzles. Most of the puzzles have a single solution, meaning that the experimentation and creativity that might come with other games in the genre is lost here. Instead, Dokuro relies on placing gold coins, the game’s sole collectable, in hard-to-reach places and having each puzzle timed to provide incentive in replaying its levels in pursuit of those shiny goodies and a better completion time.
An additional difficulty level is added after completing the game, but there are no noticeable changes apart from the difficulty, which is a little disappointing. It would have been so much fun if Dokuro had hidden a few expert levels in the post-game, but they really missed a trick here.
Overall, Dokuro is a bit of a mixed bag. With a unique art style and some fun and interesting puzzles, this game had the potential to be something great. Sadly, what Dokuro truly lacks is memorability. While it’s a solid puzzle game that is very enjoyable in short bursts, other titles in the genre have done what it attempts to accomplish, only better. In that respect, you’re likely better off looking elsewhere for your puzzle game fix. Despite its high points, the repetitive puzzles can detract from the overall enjoyment you’ll have with Dokuro, but ultimately, this game is one that can definitely catch your attention, for better or for worse.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 5/10
Replay Value - 3/10
Despite its high points, the repetitive puzzles can detract from the overall enjoyment you’ll have with Dokuro, but ultimately, this game is one that can definitely catch your attention.