Bony heroics on the Vita.
Dokuro by GungHo Entertainment and GameArts is a black and white noir style 2D puzzle platformer on the PS Vita with a dark, Gothic, yet pleasing to the eye feel. The aim of the game is to guide to safety the beautiful young princess who has been kidnapped by the Dark Lord and locked inside his castle. The princess just keeps on moving towards the end of each level, so it’s your objective as the bony skeleton to carefully guide her through the hell that waits within the castle walls in the form of falling blocks, hovering satanic demons, slice ‘n dice mechanical saws, flaming flamethrowers and puzzles aplenty.
As the bony hero you can transform, with the help of a handy potion, from skeleton form to that of a rather heroic, and switching between the two allows you to overcome certain obstacles throughout the game by using their different abilities. Guide the princess safely to the end of each level, where a flower will blossom to mark your success.
The basic element of the gameplay involves moving Dokuro, our trusty bony hero, while the princess makes her own way, stopping whenever the path is not clear or there is a threat to her life. Players will spend a lot of time jumping from platform to platform, activating levers and trying to avoid certain death from all manner of spikes and pits, whilst clearing the path for the princess to continue on her way. You may find yourself activating a series of cranks to stop spikes from falling from above, or negotiating pits from below and dexterously leaping to safety in this finely balanced platformer.
During your mission to help the damsel in distress, you may need to flex your skeletal muscles and physically pick up the hapless princess with the circle button, and then press it again to set her down on safer ground. This takes some practice as you are constantly having to watch what the princess is doing whilst negotiating puzzles and switching forms, and time becomes a factor. In the early game, time does not seem too much of an issue as you guide the princess to the flower, but as the game moves on and you find yourself pressing buttons, avoiding spikes and working on levers, it is easy to start questioning how long your have taken to complete a level, and whether you could have done it quicker.
Let’s not forget the other element of gameplay in this intriguing black and white puzzler – chalk. Work your chalking skills by dragging your finger across the screen to draw a chalk mark to solve certain puzzles within the game. For instance white chalk enables you to link up various items, red chalk ignites a burning fuse and blue chalk fills the environment with water. These different puzzle elements are introduced slowly so the player can learn their use, before leaving the player to work out how it all fits together for the right solution.
Even though you are a bony skeleton for most of the time, facing demonic enemies still comes with risks. Get damaged once and your bony ass will still survive; however, several attacks will result in your demise and having to restart the level. If for whatever reason you get stuck in a level, you can bypass the stage by pressing the triangle button and selecting ‘Skip’. However, you can only implement this up to ten times, so think carefully about which stages you wish to avoid.
In my mind, there are a number of different elements to a successful puzzle game that encourages you to go back even after a number of failed attempts, and Dokuro seems to have all of those elements. At its core, Dokuro is a simple 2D platformer with pleasing black and white visuals. But the puzzles are creatively designed and the gameplay uses a series of instinctive controls to create a finely balanced game. At times you may hear the terrified screams of the young princess echoing within the castle walls, but just pick up your bones and persevere in this wonderful puzzle platformer for the PS Vita.