Title: Dokuro
Developer: Game Arts
Publisher: GungHo Online Entertainment America
Genre: Puzzle
Platform: Vita
Release Date: October 16th, 2012
Rating: ESRB E10+

Puzzle games are extremely hit and miss with me. If they’re too easy, I tend to pat myself on the back, when in reality someone should just pat my head and say, “there there”. If they’re too hard, I’m overcome with anger and want to break everything. I have memories of broken controllers and scared family pets as they watched something go flying through the air. I require a very delicate balance to keep me interested in the game and to ensure I keep playing said game. Some games pull it off, while others are sorely lacking. Let’s discuss Dokuro and see if it manages to keep a balance with me.

You play as a nameless skeleton who is trying to save the princess. Apparently, the Dark Lord wishes to make her his wife. Following along with the story-line as you clear each stage isn’t too difficult. There’s a cute little scene to show players what’s going on, then it’s right back to the puzzles! These scenes were refreshing; they helped me grow an attachment to the princess. I don’t want her to become some bad guy’s wife!

Dokuro’s formula is one part puzzle, one part platformer. Players skilled in both genres will find a healthy balance in this game. Levels consist of puzzles to help the player reach the princess, then platforming segments to take the princess to the end of the level. I was impressed with the way it pulls off a very nice balance of easy stages that felt relaxing, as well as some stages that I was sure would melt my brain. I can promise that you come to a time when the awesome sound of the bone crushing death of your skeleton dude will bring a sick, sadistic smile to your face. When I got irritated I found myself killing him off just to hear the sound and see him fall to bits!

The penalty of death depends upon your advancement in the stage. Each stage has around 10 sections. Once you get through a section, your game is saved. If you have already turned the puzzle into garbled trash and you die, then the punishment is nothing; you’d simply restart the area. If you have figured out the puzzle and are near the end of pulling it off…the punishment for death is more severe. I imagine you can gather how frustrating it is to start over from the beginning when you’re so close to the end.

Players don’t have to solve puzzles based on wit alone. You even get some very nifty tools in your arsenal. Chalk it up to creativity! Hey, I had to get at least one chalk pun in this review. You are given several colors of chalk that all do something different. Each chalk color is earned as the game progresses. Chalk colors are elementally color coded for your  convenience. Red is fire/fuse, blue is water… Easy enough. These are not the only chalk colors, but you get the drift. In addition to this you can also transform into a hero, which allows you to do different things like pick the princess up to get her over certain obstacles.

The game gives you the option to skip up to 10 stages. This was very much appreciated whenever I was stuck on a puzzle but having so much fun, I did not want to put the game down. Once you calm down and have a fresh perspective you can go back and replay any level you want. If you chose to play a stage you previously skipped and got through it this time, you earn back your skip token. The skip tokens helped make my experience with the game as good as it could be!

Visually pleasant and quite fun to look at, the chalk theme is done…and done well. I tend to like  darker themed characters and stages. The game’s characters and stages are extremely well put-together. The art designers must have been inspired by The Nightmare Before Christmas.

While you’re playing or simply planning your next move, there’s a groovy soundtrack. Every action you perform wins you yet another kooky sound-effect to marvel on top of the music that plays continuously. Move a box, a sound overlays with the music. Jump, and there’s another sound! Even death will reward you with a different sound based on how you died. You can drown him, get him killed by an enemy, and impale him with spikes just to name a few.

The gameplay is very enjoyable; there are no noticeable flaws in execution. Things move smoothly, you don’t find yourself going really? He wouldn’t jump?!?! Without such smooth controls, this game would lose a lot of its fun factor. Once again, I was very impressed with how well things worked. You use both the front and back touch screens as well and they are both very responsive.

I would recommend Dokuro to any puzzle game lover who has decent platforming skills. If you are on the edge of a purchase, let me remind you of a few key things. They do mix the levels up from easy-peasy to mind-boggling insanity. The easier levels give you a few moments to revel in your triumphs, while the harder levels will test your brain thoroughly.  With this and the addition of the ability to skip levels it really is worth the purchase. Everything about the game is fun from the visuals to the game play and sounds.

Review Score
Crystal Colwell
What's up everyone? Crystal here! I spend my time writing up the news for you all and keeping us all up to date with incoming game info from Japan. I do a little bit of everything else around here, too. :) Happy Reading!