Boing! Docomodake
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-05-06 Nintendo DS Platform E (Everyone) AQ Interactive / Ignition Entertainment

Deep within the Docomodake Forest lives the Docomodake family: Mama, Papa, their three children and a set of grandparents. The annual forest festival is approaching for this happy family and everyone wishes to do their share of the preparations. However, in a random turn of events, each member of the family has gone missing. It's now up to Papa Docomodake to find his family before the festival starts without them, which is of course where you come in.

Boing! Docomodake is a side-scrolling, level based platformer with a twist. Levels can be played at your own pace, and task you with making your way through maze-like environments of increasing complexity as you collect coins and open treasure chests, with the overall goal being of course to rescue your missing family members.

Papa Docomodake is a large mushroom with the ability to split off a number of miniature clones from himself (you become a smaller mushroom for every mini your branch off). These minis are subservient to your will, and by moving Papa around the environment with the directional pad, your minis will eagerly follow behind you so long as there are no gaps or walls in their path. You may return this minis to your body at any time by either dragging them one by one back into your body, or by tapping on the gloved hand forever stationed above your head, which calls them all back, no matter if they are currently viewable on screen or not.

These minis will draw the majority of your focus throughout gameplay, as they can be manipulated in numerous ways via tapping and dragging them around the touch screen with the stylus. If you see a high platform just above your reach, you can stack a few minis in order to create a ladder to reach the top, or you can drag minis onto vertically moving platforms in order to weigh it down enough to drop to a level that you can reach (then removing the minis to make the platform rise).

Minis can be dragged to spaces in each level that are surrounded by a dotted line in order to make new platforms, block enemies that might normally drop down from the ceiling on top of you, and so on. As the game requires that you play with the stylus in hand, it places a lot of pressure on your left hand to control the directional pad, with the up button allowing Papa to climb ladders or to jump, with the latter action being more than a bit awkward when you wish to move either left or right after you jump.

Each area of the environment (a bat cave, clover field, and so on) is split into eight levels, with each world containing an appropriate theme. For instance, the bat cave, more so than in other levels, revolves around Papa Docomodake's ability to dig through soft sections of earth to venture deeper into the cave, while the clover field levels revolve more around climbing vines made of clover to reach new heights.

All throughout your journey, the graphics retain the same humble appearance; a mix of bright shades in certain worlds and a more muted pallet in others, all with a very cartoony appearance that adds an undeniable cuteness to the experience. Likewise, the sound department continues on with the theme of each world, with calming, peaceful melodies of a surprisingly excellent quality played in early levels where danger is at a minimum being replaced by more upbeat tunes when you are nearing the game's climax.

Apart from the changes of the soundtrack, the levels of course become more difficult as you progress, with more enemies, more spike traps or gaps to traverse, and so on, each increasing the theoretical challenge present in the game. That being said, the title is far from difficult, as long as you take the time to visually dissect each area of the environment before making a move, so that your entire path is laid out in front of you before you begin.

Likewise, where enemies are present in each level, they are easily eliminated by double tapping on one of your minis, which causes it to roll up into a ball which can be thrown at most threats, killing them with one hit. After being thrown, minis will remain stunned for a few seconds, and you must drag them back into Papa's body before they "die" and become a floating ghost above your head. Bell statues are placed around each level that allow you to return said ghostly minis to their natural form, but each statue can only be used once, adding even more to the overall strategic theme of the game.

After finishing each level, you are given a letter grade based on how quickly you completed the level, how many treasure chests you opened and how many coins you collected. You are also allowed to do a bit of shopping from the main menu using the coins you have collected to unlock individual songs from the soundtrack, along with the text-based cutscenes that play before and after each world is completed.

What the game may lack in challenge it compensates for in charm, with a story revolving around the importance of family and helping those you care for no matter how far apart two members might be; a fitting theme considering Papa Docomodake's start as a Japanese mobile phone company mascot, who would obviously wish to advertize the ability to connect with someone regardless of distance.

From the outset, Boing! Docomodake might initially appear to be another bizarre Japanese title appropriate only for those who have an acquired taste for such offerings, but in reality is a unique take on the platforming genre that, while lacking in difficulty, is full of strategy, making it more than deserving of a second look.

Special thanks to Susan Hale and Ignition for providing a copy of this title to review.