Just because Vita sales are in a bit of a slump, doesn't mean that there isn't anything to play on the platform. If you look closely enough the Vita has fostered some amazing, hidden gems since it was released eight months ago. Sound Shapes, New Little King's Story, and most recently Retro City Rampage are some truly great games that have found a comfortable home on Sony's struggling platform. The latest game to add its name to the list of worthy titles is Dorkuro, an enchanting puzzle/platformer that offers a new take on trying to save the princess.
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Dokuro blends simplistic gameplay with a unique art style to craft an intriguing world, full of challenging puzzles. While you may not be entirely familiar with its publisher, GungHo Online Entertainment America, there's a good chance that you have at least checked out one or two of its developer's, GameArts (Thexder to Grandia), games in past. Even with a well-established developer behind it, Dokuro appears to be a bit of an experiment, since it neither looks, nor plays like anything GameArts has ever released before.
The titular character in Dokuro is a skeleton, who works for the intimidating Dark Lord. One day, the Dark Lord returns to his castle with a beautiful princess that he has captured, and Dokuro promptly falls in love with her. Given his new-found infatuation, he sees it as his duty to help her escape. Armed with only a bone (which, coincidentally, we can only assume is one of his arms), Dokuro sets forth on his platforming adventure. Our bony hero isn't completely helpless, and has a couple of tricks up his sleeve – namely potions and chalk.
At any point during the game Dokuro can drink a potion to transform into a swashbuckling prince for a limited amount time, allowing him to attack enemies better or carry the princess through treacherous terrain. Dokuro also has different kinds of chalk. While something as simple as chalk might seem innocuous, players can use different color pieces to solve various puzzles via the Vita's touchscreen. White chalk connects things, red helps transport fire, blue is water, and so on. This particular mechanic works well too, because the chalk fits in perfectly with the game's beautiful art style.
Set on a perpetually black background, Dokuro and the Princess have to make their way through a host of different rooms in the Dark Lord's castle, and it looks like they are doing it on an animated chalkboard. GameArts have created a beautiful, albeit dark, game about a skeleton, and somehow managed to make it endearing through the games visual flair. No matter how hard the levels get, there is always some satisfaction in enjoying how pretty of an experience the game is.
The difficulty on the other hand, tends to be a lot less forgiving than the art. Dokuro's adventure is hard, and will challenge even the most seasoned puzzle solvers. While each room is its own contained puzzle, there ends up being so many pieces that need to fall into place to for each solution that solving some of them may require a trip to the internet. The different sections of the castle pose their own unique problems, like the kitchen having an abundance of fire, and tools, like seesaws and pendulums.
As the game builds, the levels get more challenging, and Dokuro has to get more creative – whether he's manipulating gravity or transporting a flame from one side of the room to another, this skeleton has his work cut out for him. At the end of each section is one of the Dark Lord's bosses, waiting to recapture the princess and put an end to Dokuro. The boss battles break up the platform based gameplay, offering up different types of challenges but keeping with the overall puzzle theme of the game. The battles are a welcome break - you can only push and pull boxes so much.
If you're looking for a light, and entertaining game that is going to test your brain, Dokuro might be just what you need. The challenges are short, and are perfect for a portable format, and they keep the game moving ahead, even if you hit a wall. On top of that, the art style is nice divergence from the vast majority of the games on the market, and the characters and story come together to create an enjoyable experience. Dokuro is a fun, new take on a time-tested plot, with some solid gameplay elements mixed in. If you own a Vita, and are looking to try something new, give Dokuro a shot, and help save that princess.