Dokuro PC Review
If you have ever browsed around gaming forums, then you have probably seen people discuss PC ports and what options they expect to have available in the game on that platform. PC ports, nowadays, are mostly fantastic, but occasionally you get a title that either hasn’t been optimised for various hardware builds and ends up suffering in performance, or simply doesn’t offer the customisation one might expect of a game ported to PC. One such case is Dokuro, a stylish presented puzzle-platform game that is virtually a direct port of the Vita game with some keyboard and mouse controls attached to it.
Dokuro has a simple, but striking and creative art style. It’s a presentation that stands out as soon as “New Game” is clicked on and the introductory cutscene is played out. It personifies itself through the use of chalk and charcoal, highlighting areas of importance, such as the Princess or the enemies. This is a visual look that would probably put a grin on Tim Burton’s face, and it works in bringing alive the moody atmosphere. It’s just a shame that since this is a bare minimal port, the game only renders at the Vita’s resolution of 960×544, a quarter of the typical 1080p that has become to the number to throw around in the console space. There is nothing in the options menu relating to any graphical settings, meaning you can either run it at the native resolution in window mode or turn on full screen and have the game blown up to whatever your current resolution is, which I can tell you isn’t the best way for the game to look, so I settled on playing in window mode – fine when you’re sat close to the monitor.
The premise of Dokuro is that the Dark Lord has kidnapped the Princess to marry for himself, like they all do, and locked her in the castle until it’s time to say the vows. Dokuro, who is a little skeleton that you control, doesn’t agree with what the Dark Lord is doing, so decides to rebel against him and set the Princess free and help her get out of this devious place made up of various platforms and puzzles. The problem is that the Princess cannot see Dokuro, so it all looks like things are magically falling in the right place for her. The story is entertaining, if fairly sparse, but don’t be expecting this to be the focus, as it’s all about getting the Princess to the end of level without leading her to any harm. Yes, that means the game is one giant escort mission, but Dokuro is one that’s actually fun to take part in.
For whatever reason, the Princess seems unaware of the dangers around her and will automatically walk forward, like a forced side-scrolling section in a platformer, until the level design stops her. Each level is down to you to help her get to the end without walking into an enemy or falling down into a pit of spikes. She’s not totally oblivious, as she won’t walk down stairs, usually placed there to keep her from moving until the puzzle in front is solved. Interestingly, each area, which there are 15, contains 10 levels, but these are not levels in the sense of transitioning to another level, but are checkpoints within the stage that signal a new puzzle coming up, so each stage is in fact 10 sections joined as one big level. This is rather different from the standard level design for mobile phone games, where they are often split into hundreds of sections to keep play time short in case of any interruption.
Puzzles begin as introductory steps in learning the game’s mechanics. Dokuro can push or pull crates over edges to fill in gaps, stand on switches to activate something, double jump for height or use his bone weapon to bash enemies away. Even though he’s a small bone person, he has plenty of abilities to put to good use, but when he wants to truly shine, a press of a button will activate a potion metre in the top corner – it recharges when not in use – to turn himself from bone to a charming prince. In this state, Dokuro is more powerful, flashing off a cape and a helpful fencing sword to kill enemies, rather than being limited to knocking them back, which happens when bashing them in Dokuro’s bone form. This form is stronger, letting him pick up the Princess – who can now see him, thinking Dokuro is some Prince Charming come to save her – to carry her downstairs, over treadmills and move her at enough speed to dodge giant bone smashes that come down from the roof.
Since Dokuro was originally a Vita game, some puzzles are based around using the Vita’s touch screen to solve. Of course, there’s no touch screen options for this game on PC, as that would cut out a lot of people; so instead, the developers have moved the touch options to the mouse, which is probably the closest you would get to the idea of a touch screen on a PC without actually owning a monitor that accepts touch inputs. The mouse is used to draw using various types of chalk, white, blue and red, to enable certain powers. White is the marking chalk, which allows objects to be connected to things, such as a dangling rope to a boulder that changes it into a swinging mini demolishing tool, or create a fuse line to light up for an explosive. Red is for fire, and is used to light up barrels of explosive gunpowder, candles, or my favourite, firing the Princess out of a cannon. Blue is used as the water chalk, changing the depth of the water and causing any objects in the liquid to either rise or fall on top of the surface. Using chalk with the mouse is stress free, as the precision of a mouse is more accurate than a wide finger press that some people had issues with on the Vita’s screen.
In fact, that’s probably the only good implementation of the controls, because the standard control layout is, quite frankly, frustrating to deal with. The A and D keys move Dokuro left and right, while the < key is used to attack and the > key is used to jump. The / key is used to transform into the prince and back. It’s such a strange layout, plus, you have to switch between the keyboard and mouse as well, leaving those buttons out of reach. The controls wouldn’t bother me as much if they were setup in appropriate places on the keyboard.
What’s even worse is that you cannot customize the controls, and since there is no controller support, you are stuck with how the game’s controls are set up. It’s this reason why I would pick the original Vita game over this PC port, so if the Vita version is available to you, then I recommend getting that version, and only go for this one if it’s your last resort. Dokuro is a good, solid puzzle game, but it’s brought down by the lack of love this PC port received.
Towards the back end of Dokuro, the puzzles begin to up their game and present very hard challenges. I solved earlier puzzles in mere seconds, but the later ones turned into brain hurting riddles, taking a few minutes to figure out, never mind physically solving. Well, it was either that or having to retry because the poor Princess committed suicide in front of me. A nice inclusion is the ability to bypass a puzzle with the use of a skip (up to 10 uses). If you’re really struggling on a puzzle and are frustrated with it, skip it and then come back later when your mind isn’t burnt out on it. It’s a friendly inclusion that I would like to see in more puzzle games. I also must say that the puzzles are mostly great. There are a few that feel like baby puzzles that are ripped from pretty much all other platform puzzle games, but some are genuinely creative, and the bosses also add an interesting puzzle element to the typical end of world boss that fill normal platform games.
It’s truly a shame that bony Dokuro didn’t get the loving treatment for his PC release, as the game itself feels like it was made by people who have a lot of fondness for the puzzle platform genre. Dokuro features some crafty and creative puzzle designs to stump your brain and a dark presentation that is different, making it stand out in a packed fill genre, and is a fun game to spend time with, but it might be better to play the Vita version instead of this barebones PC edition.