The moment Dokuro caught sight of the beautiful Princess, kidnapped by his Master – the Dark Lord – he fell in love. Clearly drawn to her flowing golden locks and proud demeanor that contrasted so vividly with his own dark, hellish reality he immediately deemed his boss an unworthy suitor and took it upon himself to rescue her from his clutches. Despite the impossibility of requited love from the Princess he is undeterred as she has shown him light in his dark world. Love makes you do silly things but you have to admire his backbone.
The Dark Lord and his subjects clearly won’t accept such duplicity and set out to thwart little skeletal Dokuro’s plan. He will face trials in the form of wonderfully creative, yet never overtly devious, puzzles as well as hellish bosses during his elopement. However, despite Dokuro’s diminutive and unsubstantial stature he has more than just his resoluteness – characterised hilariously in his raised-elbow and determined stride – to help him progress.
As you progress through the 147 levels you will attain new powers and abilities that are needed to navigate them. One of which, the ability to switch between skeletal and human form, restores Dokuro to his former, princely glory. Both forms have their own benefits. As a Prince you can carry the Princess as well as kill enemies with your rapier whereas as a skeleton you have a double jump and you walk faster. With most puzzles requiring you to switch between forms this adds a nice layer of complexity. There are other skills you will learn and once added to your repertoire they provide a satisfying range of combinations for you to utilise to help the Princess go from left to right.
In fact that’s pretty much all she is capable of. She will automatically walk right which is something you’ll need to always keep in mind because, unlike a lot of puzzle-platformers where you just need to escape, you also need to escape her. The spaced-out princess will heedlessly wonder forward so, in order to ensure her safety, you must forge a safe path for her through the spikes, crushing pillars, spinning buzz-saws, flamethrowers, minions and so on. To her credit she doesn’t walk into the minions as she seems adorably scared of them.
Dokuro’s success lies in the masterful and critical balancing act of two main factors: art style and puzzles. The art-style is so rudimentary and simplistic that it’s galling to think they had the guts to pull it off. Animations, backgrounds, cut-scenes and general aesthetics are so flagrantly and unrelentingly simplistic that it’s genuinely funny. It’s so easy for that style to come off as crude or unfinished yet Dokuro seems to revel in it.
The other element is the puzzles themselves. Right from the very first level we are told how we are to approach the puzzles and that is a multiple-level approach as there are often multiple aspects to consider before attempting to traverse the level. The key thing is, although each level is layered and seldom straightforward, they are rarely if ever frustrating or obtuse which is a quality worth celebrating and acknowledging. It would be so easy for the designers to create devious and overly-difficult puzzles but the level of restraint they have shown here results in a total success story and a puzzle platformer well worth any Vita owner’s time.