Saving the princess is a time-honored tale used throughout games, but what if you were the one who kidnapped her? Well, then you’d be playing Dungeon Keeper, and we’re not talking about that today. Instead, though, what if you helped kidnap her…and then had second thoughts? In that case, you’re on your way to coming up with the puzzle platformer Dokuro, now available on Steam (after originating way back when on the Vita) which stars a minion who’s out to un-kidnap a princess that the evil lord he works for has locked away.
As Dokuro, the skeletal minion, your job is to help the princess escape the castle. The game’s overall playstyle brings to mind recent titles like Final Night as well as earlier games like Krusty’s Super Fun House. Your darling princess walks directly forward, stopping for obvious danger like pits or monsters. You’ll need to keep the road clear to keep her moving; you’ll also need to keep it relatively level, since she can’t really jump.
Dokuro’s moveset to accomplish this goal is pretty minimal. He’s got a jump and a double jump, for starters, and he can smack enemies around with a bone; the latter doesn’t tend to actually kill your target, but it can knock it into traps for destruction or puzzle-solving purposes. Enemies in general are a significant threat, since Dokuro can only take a couple hits before dying. What’s more, you’re able to assist Dokuro by drawing lines that connect switches and doors, along with other environmental objects. Careful use of this ability will allow you to manipulate the environment to create a path.
Sometimes, though, being a little bony minion just isn’t enough. You’ll need power. Grace. Panache. And that’s why Dokuro’s able to use the power offered by a magic blue potion to become a skeletal prince. As a prince, you can physically lift the princess and carry her around, which makes guiding her about a bit easier but also greatly restricts your ability to jump. The prince is also capable of fighting with a sword, a much more effective combat option than Dokuro’s regular bone attack.
Speaking of combat, along with the usual princess protection patrol, there’s the odd boss fight to deal with as well. These are mostly puzzle-based; while Prince Dokuro’s sword might chip away at the boss’s health, this is going to take decades and you’re much better off finding how to exploit a weakness. These tend to be the most interesting parts of the game, even if your character’s frailty can make them a bit frustrating.
When it comes to presentation, I was struck while playing Dokuro that this is the kind of game that would have been free on Newgrounds not ten years ago. It’s very simple, the production values are decent but not fantastic and it’s just frustrating enough that it would help to be able to put it down without buyers’ remorse. In 2015 it feels just a bit sparse, but the chalk-based drawings are certainly cute and there’s no huge complaints regarding how the game looks and feels.
Dokuro certainly isn’t going to win any game of the year awards. It’s simple in a variety of ways and it doesn’t really go in any new directions. Still, it’s cute and worth a look if you’re really hurting for a puzzler. Note, though, that while I didn’t encounter this myself, I’ve seen several reviews complain about technical issues with the Steam version of the game; if you’re worried and own a Vita, that might be the direction you’d rather go.