Docomodake is the latest surprise on Nintendo’s handheld that a lot of people might pass up in the store, unaware of its contents and maybe a little miffed by the bouncy mushroom dude on the cover. That’s understandable. Retail shelves are dripping with dubious DS content, all of which is one letter away (that letter is “Z,” by the way) from being indistinguishable kiddie shovelware. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for the Imagine Babiez of the world, but I doubt anyone that can read this article under their own power is interested in that type of entertainment.
The bouncy mushroom cover boy in question is Papa Docomodake, and he’s running all over Docomodake Forest looking for his missing family members, all of whom seem to have vanished during the annual festival. None of that matters, but I might as well put it out there since you’ll all be skipping the story scenes just like I did. What does matter is the puzzle/platformer style of the game and the even, satisfying curve of its difficulty.
Docomodake uses the touch-screen to a satisfying effect, and it’s not a game that can be played with just the D-pad and face buttons out of laziness, something I’m guilty of in almost every single game that offers an alternative to stylus controls. Tapping on Papa divides him into smaller ‘shrooms, the quantity of which increases as you progress. A variety of tasks can be accomplished when he’s divided. You can double-tap one to turn it into a rock-like projectile, work your way into smaller spaces, weigh down pulleys, etc. Dragging and dropping them pretty much anywhere that’s not blocked by an obstacle makes for a lot of interesting situations, with a few that actually turn out to be real head-scratchers.
The key here is to learn the play mechanics up front and remember them well, because I damned myself more than a few times after taking a brief break and just plain forgot some crucial elements. There’s nothing worse than being stuck on a stage simply because you forgot that you could summon all of your separate pieces back with a simple tapping of the icon above Papa.
The aforementioned difficulty curve, while never spiking to an unmanageable level, will keep players on their toes in the later stages. Docomodake does a good job of easing the tougher aspects in gradually, and most of those are there to screw over the hastier players, forcing them to retry the level after getting irreversibly stuck. You have to start thinking a few moves ahead, because it’s easy to get tied up in the middle of a platforming maze of weights and switches. Admittedly, it can be a little frustrating when this happens at the tail end of a stage, but none of them are terribly long, even when I found myself foolishly making the same mistake more than once.
There’s also a fair amount of replay value for the obsessive. Passing the stages is one thing, but getting a good score is something else entirely. Even when I thought things were going well, I would emerge victorious with the kind of report card I couldn’t even think about hanging on the fridge with a straight face. If the collecting bug is in you, then the life span of this title increases exponentially.
Docomodake is certainly what I would qualify as “light fare” in the spectrum of puzzlers out there, but that’s not detrimental in any way. It’s a bubbly, cute side-scroller with nicely animated sprites and a soundtrack that occasionally reaches catchy heights. I would forgive most people for passing it up in the harsh wilderness of retail, but it would be worth anyone’s while to give it a go, as it’s bounds better than most of the stuff that publishers are trying to pass off as all-ages entertainment at the moment.
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Developer: AQ Interactive
System: Nintendo DS