Saving princesses has gotten a little tiresome over the years, hasn’t it? GungHo Entertainment imports Game Arts’ Dokuro to swoop in at the end of a several year-long scuffle between royalty and the monsters who want to kidnap them to breathe new life into an antiquated genre, but ends up falling short. The chalk-like aesthetics and puzzle-solving Dokuro brings with it are innocent and cute enough, but this PS Vita problem-solving smorgasbord just isn’t up to snuff.
The titular Dokuro is an adorable skeleton prince whose affections for a certain princess run deeper than any pitiful human relationships. His lord and master the Dark Lord has stolen the beautiful princess away and Dokuro has made it his mission to retrieve her. It’s a tale of unrequited love that could be heartbreaking, if the princess weren’t so dim-witted. Dokuro is escorting the princess on a daring escape from the Dark Lord’s palace, all hundreds of levels of it. And as luck would have it, this princess is not only helpless, but she’s pretty short on brain power, too.
Dokuro guides the princess, who will follow along blindly, through spike traps, fire pits, and a smattering of other hazardous traps. The princess will continue along the path in front of her, but is all too content to fall directly into the hazards and traps before despite your best efforts. Dokuro has the means to protect her: felling enemies, calling on various chalk powers to aid in crossing chasms and the like (controlled via touch and spot-on accurate, thankfully).
Unfortunately, most of his interactions with the princess are done through nudges and pushes the bend the princess to his will. She’s pigheaded and oblivious, always seeming to run headfirst into danger, like an escort mission from hell. The only strategy that serves to alleviate dealing with her is the magical potion Dokuro can gulp down to turn him into a handsome prince. The potion only works for a short amount of time, but enables hum to carry the princess and defend himself and her with a royal sword. In this form Dokuro can catch the eye of the princess and can do much more than nudge her in the right direction, but he can’t jump while holding her. There are tradeoffs to be mindful of when becoming beautiful (like in real life, we suppose), adding another layer of puzzle-solving to the already-frustrating realm of dungeon-crawling.
The puzzles themselves are what end up being so frustrating in the end, unforgiving in that if you fail or fall into a pit of spikes or to your death, you’ll often be forced to start over once more. Considering the difficulty that will inexplicably ramp up at all the wrong moments, you could be in the middle of an especially formidable puzzle, make one wrong move, and be essentially sent back to start over again. It’s not rewarding, only annoying, and it definitely acted as a deterrent for me.
Dokuro had some interesting ideas, to be sure, but in practice they were neither entertaining nor inviting enough to keep me pressing on. I did find the chalk aesthetic and touch controls charming, however even they couldn’t help salvage the overall experience. I’ve seen and played much better, and the stylistic Dokuro just wasn’t able to satisfy that platforming itch successfully. Stay with Mario and Peach if you want some unrequited love triangles.