After enjoying accolades like “Original Game of the Year” and “Best Vita Puzzle Game” in the US, Dokuro finally brings his chalky goodness across the Atlantic Ocean this week. Players in the EU and Australia can finally enjoy Dokuro’s 147 levels of puzzles, platforms, spikes and saw blades.
For those unfamiliar with the game, its story revolves around Dokuro, a skeletal member of the Dark Lord’s army, who makes the career change from peon to hero after witnessing the tears of a captive Princess. Filled with newfound determination, Dokuro begins his daring rescue. Unfortunately, the Princess doesn’t even seem to notice he’s there until he quaffs a magical potion that gives him a heroic new appearance and the capacity for fancy sword play.
By swapping forms, players make use of Dokuro’s skeleton and hero forms to solve puzzles and battle foes while safely guiding the Princess to the end of each stage. They also have access to different coloured chalks that can control the environment by drawing ropes, lighting candles or creating pools of water. At regular intervals, Dokuro will encounter a gigantic boss who must be vanquished through a mixture of action and puzzle gameplay, so players will have to be as nimble-minded as they are dexterous!
A fantastical children’s storybook brought to life with a captivating chalk flair, Dokuro is undeniably charming, but it’s got all the depth and challenge one might expect from a robust, first-rate game. This is largely thanks to the game’s director, Noriaki Kazama, who comes from a strong, core-gaming background. His goal was to create a game that was visually striking, fun and accessible while still possessing the challenging appeal that more seasoned gamers would enjoy.
Development began with a simple internal contest at Game Arts. Everyone tossed in game concepts and the winner was the key design element that would later evolve to what we now see.
They knew they were making some kind of escort mission involving a hero who has to pick up a princess and bring her to safety. The definitive art style came later when Kazama was visiting a book store. His first child was about two years old, so he found himself in the children’s section more often than not.
He was so moved by the art style of one particular book, that he was determined to embody that feeling in his current game project. Before long, Dokuro, the Princess and the Dark Lord were taking shape in their signature chalk-art style, but captivating visuals were not enough.
Having worked on hardcore action games, it was crucial for Kazama to make something of style, challenge and substance that could be enjoyed by a large audience. Approaching development with this in mind, his team would constantly design levels, test them on among themselves as well as “non-gamers” and finally strike a perfect balance between failure and success.
For the action-oriented sequences, tight controls were of the utmost importance so the player would never experience a disconnect from the character they controlled. Toward the end, some of the puzzle stages became incredibly difficult, so an option to skip a total of 10 stages was added to let players fully experience the story even if the puzzles stumped them.
When we asked if he had anything to tell his western fans, Kazama said, “Thanks for your passionate interest in Dokuro and his epic adventure. The team and I have poured everything we have into this game. All of us here at PonKotz Troops hope this game provides countless hours of enjoyment for you!”
Dokuro is available from PlayStation Store this Wednesday, 30th January, priced €14.99/£11.99.