Dokuro is a game that has been around for a while. It received stellar reviews on the PlayStation Vita and some time ago approached the PC audience to offer us its quite unique art style and puzzle experience.
Dokuro is at its core a frankly awesome puzzle game. It is challenging (despite some difficulty spikes here and there), it’s endearing, and it is a joy for both the eyes and the ears. Or at least it is in its PS Vita version. On PC, Dokuro suffers some annoying port problems. Some are probably fruit of developer oversight, while others are attributable to the nature of the PC platform. But let’s go in order; we’ll come back to the port in a while.
Dokuro’s story is as classic as a videogame can get. A dark overlord becomes infatuated with a beautiful princess and kidnaps her. One of the dark lord’s minions, the tiny skeleton Dokuro in this case, decides to betray him and free the princess, helping her escape from the castle. He does this by bringing her to the road and protecting her from the enemies and traps ahead. The princess can only walk forward and stop at obstacles waiting for her protector (that she apparently can’t see) to do the work for her (inb4 damsel in distress).
Our favorite skeleton (in the scope of this article at least) has some weapons in his arsenal. He can jump pretty high (and even double jump) to reach platforms way over his head , he can smack his enemies with a bone with questionable efficiency, and he will gain, going on in the game, access to different colored chalks that he can use to partially interact with some elements in the scene. For example, he can use his white chalk to replace a severed rope, he can use his red chalk to draw a line from a candle to an explosive barrel to ignite it or he can use his blue chalk to create water. The last power he gets is the ability to transform into a charming prince for a limited time when he drinks a blue potion.
While being a charming prince, he loses the ability to double jump, but he gains other skills. He is a pretty decent swordsman, he can walk in low water without drowning and he can pick up the princess and carry her over some sections since he’s not invisible to her anymore.
The purpose of the game is to find a way to make the princess safely walk across the scene unharmed. It can prove difficult at times since the puzzles are often very well designed and will pose a challenge to any fan of the genre. The sight of the princess kneeling to the lone flower that marks the end of the scene after all the hard work Dokuro had to pull off is very rewarding. The obstacles the player will have to face include but are not limited to moving platforms, fires, enemies of all kinds and crates to move in order to create a path. There are boss fights at the end of each section of the game and they are, if not as challenging as most of the puzzles, very fun to play. The weak spot of Dokuro is surely not in its mechanics.
Let’s talk about the art style. Both the sound and the visual aesthetics are really pleasing. Dokuro makes use of beautiful and well-made chalk drawn art style. In a period when it feels like one game out of three is made with pixel art, this is a nice change of pace.
You’ll not find fancy visual or particle effects. The visuals are pretty plain and rightfully so. It gives you the impression that every frame of the game has been drawn on a chalkboard, and this makes it very charming. Both the character design and level design are enjoyable and interesting in their own way. Its gorgeous art design definitely makes Dokuro stand out on his genre.
The music and sound are also very good and well-done. The only problem with it is that it tends to become repetitive after a while. It is maybe to be expected in a game where you’re supposed to try and try the same puzzle until you make it work somehow.
Now we talk of why it’s hard to me to recommend Dokuro on PC to anyone but the huge fans of the genre. Its port on PC leaves much to be desired. Mostly because to play Dokuro efficiently, you need 3 hands.
Dokuro has been designed to make extensive use of touch controls. On PS Vita, for example, you used the dpad/analog stick to move the character, the right buttons to perform actions, and when you needed to use the chalk or to operate a device, you just moved your thumb on the screen to do it. It’s obviously not possible on PC.
The default control scheme on PC uses WASD for the movement, three buttons that on my (Italian) keyboard are the full stop, comma and “ù” buttons to perform actions, and the mouse to do everything that on other systems would have been done using a touch system. This means that every time you need to draw a line with a chalk, you need to move your hand from the action buttons to the mouse and move it back when the deed is done. This gets really annoying, really fast.
Now, if you’re thinking “I’ll just map the action buttons on 3 of my side mouse buttons because I think it would be a decent way to play for some reason,” good luck with that. You can’t rebind the hotkeys which adds a whole new layer of annoyance.
Let’s throw in an example. Some puzzles will require you to operate a crank, moving the icon in a circular pattern to make a platform move. Having access to a touch screen, it would be no problem. Move the thumb on the icon and move it. With a mouse that can be way trickier, and it could require more attempts since happens often when you move your mouse slightly away from the interaction region and just activate the chalk instead. Luckily, I realized pretty soon that you can operate the cranks with WASD as well. Not ideal but at least that annoyance has been taken care of.
To diminish the problems the PC controls of Dokuro brings, you may decide to play with a controller instead. Dokuro has partial controller support where partial means that you can use your controller for anything but using the chalk.
This means, sadly, that there is absolutely no optimal way to play Dokuro on PC. And it’s a bummer because there’s a wonderful game behind the curtain of awkward controls.
You can buy Dokuro on Steam.
This game was obtained from the developer and reviewed on PC
Did you play Dokuro? What are your thoughts on it? Let us know in the comments
Dokuro is a wonderful puzzle game but I can only recommend you to play it on a platform that can make use of a touch screen like the PS Vita or a tablet/phone. PC is not the platform for it