Doujin games – basically the Japanese equivalent of our indie games – have been a subgenre that’s only started to gain more prominence in the West. That’s kind of a shame, really. While the trend in Western indie games has been moving toward a bigger-budget AAA-lite production model thanks to crowdfunding and Early Access allowing these games to be paid for before they actually exist, doujin games have tended to err on the simple side. This often results in nuggets of pure gaming goodness which don’t have community managers, Kickstarter specialists or backers involved.
You might call it a breath of fresh air, really, and Project Sekai’s Tobari and the Night of the Curious Moon is a great example of how doujin games provide humble, straightforward fun.
Tobari and the Night of the Curious Moon, which we’re going to call TatNotCM for (slightly) easier reference, follows the young witch/hall monitor Tobari as she searches for her friend Hina. Presumably she’s out to mete out a little discipline. Hall monitoring is hard work. That’s not all, though – as the name might suggest, the moon’s starting to look more than a little weird…
TatNotCM is mostly reminscent of Nintendo’s Kirby series. The older games in that series, I mean, not the maddeningly difficult Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. You’ve got your basic hop-and-bop mechanics where Tobari can jump on enemies to take them out along with platforming all over the stage to pick up gems. You’ll probably want to hop on the enemies instead of into them, since Tobari’s got a limited number of hit points and will die after getting chomped too many times.
More interesting, though, is Tobari’s basic staff attack. This is a short-range staff whack that produces collectible magic spells when used on certain enemies, and much as in Kirby, these powers serve as the foundation of the gameplay here. Tobari can carry two spells at a time, switching between them as you wish; they range from your standard fireball to a blast of icy air to a difficult-to-use lightning bolt. Collecting and using the right spell for the situation is what TatNotCM is all about, whether you’re picking something to help with platforming like the magic broom or choosing an appropriate weapon for a boss battle.
All of this is tied together with a cutesy anime aesthetic of the sort you’re probably used to by now. There’s the odd cutscene here and there, and even a bit of Japanese voice acting accompanying most of what Tobari does. Controls are nice and responsive, and the title feels pretty good all in all, even including a Super Mario Bros. 3 style world map. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that this might have been free on Newgrounds back in 2005 or so, as it’s a pretty simple game.
There’s no point in lamenting for a lost golden age of Flash gaming, though! $10 isn’t asking too much for a decent doujin game, and we certainly wouldn’t have seen this localized back in the dark days of 2005. Those seeking the simple joys of platforming action that’ll run on computers as low-spec as, say, a nacho chip can’t go wrong with Tobari and the Night of the Curious Moon.