|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: AQ Interactive||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ignition Ent.||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 10, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Corporate branding through the use of cute mascot characters has long been a marketing tool to sell units and entice new customers, regardless of the specific industry in question. Video game tie-ins with film, cartoons, products, and books are often skewed towards a certain demographic and get a bad rap as a result.
Traditionally, younger players flock to such games, while older gamers tend to be a little more hesitant to fall for the more blatant marketing schemes without assurance theyre getting a good game in the process. Japans NTT DoCoMo has thrown U.S. players a curveball.
Boing! Docomodake DS is a disarmingly upbeat platform puzzle game featuring a family of cheerful mushrooms. Its the kind of title that will readily catch the eye of kids seeking the next cartoonish game to add to their collection as well as other gamers drawn-in by the clever platforming/puzzle gameplay hybrid. What most folks outside of Japan wont immediately realize is the games friendly mushroom protagonists are actually the mascots for that countrys largest mobile phone company. While this may rub some players the wrong way, rest assured it matters little once you jump into the games enjoyable little world.
It shouldnt come as a big surprise that Boing! Docomodake is light on story elements. The setup is simple. Each year the Docomodake village holds an extravagant festival, but none of the mushroom family members who left the village to gather goodies and prepare for the celebration have returned. Worried about their safety and the fate of the festival, Papa Docomodake sets out to see what happened. As Papa, you must venture out into the land beyond to locate all of your missing family members and get them home to the festival on-time and unscathed. Each has wound up in a different area, and youll explore numerous dangerous and mysterious locations to save all six relatives. Extremely brief and vague snippets of the story are uncovered each time you find a family member, and the game features wholesome and positive messages about being a family.
What Boing! Docomodake lacks in gripping plot twists it mostly makes up for in the gameplay department. Each world is made up of eight levels filled with puzzles, traps, danger, and treasure. You'll have to make your way over, around, and through a cornucopia of moving platforms, enemies, ladders, trap doors, spikes, colored gates with switches, weight-sensitive scales, tight tunnels, and other obstacles. The difficulty curve starts out gentle as a breeze, introducing new puzzle concepts along the way, and doesn't really get particularly tough until the final levels. Challenge-wise, the game increases the difficulty gradually as levels grow more complex. This is perfect for younger players while still providing enough engaging gameplay to keep the rest of us interested.
Making it through levels successfully requires more than just jumping, rolling, pushing objects, and climbing. Fortunately, it turns out Papa is a rather versatile fellow; he can split himself into miniature portions and reform at will. This neat mechanic gets a lot of play in different ways throughout the game's seven puzzle-heavy worlds, and it's one of the biggest draws of the adventure. Minis can be turned into projectiles, used to weigh down switches and platforms, dropped-into place to create solid blocks in certain situations, and stacked to create ladders. Papa will also increase or decrease in size as you add or subtract his minis, and this frequently is factored in to puzzles. When attacked, damaged, or thrown, minis become dazed and will perish if they're not reabsorbed into Papa before a 10 second timers goes off. Papa also jettisons a mini when he's damaged, and he'll perish if he's injured when not carrying any minis. It's not always imperative that you finish a level with all minis intact, but later levels often force you to use every last one to reach the exit and all of the secret treasures hidden about.
There are a lot of maneuvers to pull off, and a smooth control setup makes it all possible without becoming frustrating. Throughout the game, you'll control Papa directly with the D-pad. He can walk left and right, duck, dig, jump, and roll with simple directional presses. Everything involving his minis is handled with the stylus. Tapping Papa drops a single mini, and all of them can be jettisoned at once with a tap of the L or R button. Moving a particular mini is done by tapping the little fellow, dragging it to wherever you choose, and releasing to drop it. You can also conveniently draw circles around groups of minis to move them en-masse. They can be reabsorbed into Papa by dragging them to him, and he can instantly summon all of his minis by selecting a hand icon hovering over his head. Dealing with the little critters can feel like micromanaging at times, but the hands-on approach to navigating levels and solving the puzzles required to do so is highly entertaining.