Boing! Docomodake

April 4, 2009

When you first find out about Boing! Docomodake, there’s an inevitable first question: what the heck is Docomodake? Once you realize that it’s the mascot of a cell phone company in Japan, you start to wonder why there’s an English version. Perhaps it was a risky move to localize something that English speakers will almost certainly know nothing about, but this game comes out of left field in many respects, and some gamers will appreciate that.

The plot of Boing! Docomodake is simple but not really vital to enjoyment of the game. The Docomodake family is a group of mobile, sentient mushrooms who are getting ready for a festival. In the midst of preparations, Papa Docomodake discovers that the rest of his family has disappeared, and sets out to find them.

You, playing as Papa, travel through several different areas, in each of which is a family member who has suffered some minor mishap and become lost. Each area is divided into multiple bite-size stages where you solve puzzles, find coins and treasure chests, and avoid or defeat enemies on your way to the goal.

Papa has several clever ways to get where he needs to go. He can split into a number of smaller versions of himself, and these mini-mushrooms can serve different functions depending on the situation. For instance, you can build a ladder with them to allow Papa to reach a high ledge. You can pick them up and throw them to activate switches or stun enemies. You will also be using them to manipulate Papa’s size; on the one hand, he can push big rocks when he’s a normal size, but he will only be able to fit through certain areas after you’ve split off some minis to make him smaller.

The controls in Docomodake are pretty straightforward and, for the most part, intuitive. You can move Papa around with either the directional pad or the face buttons, while the minis are positioned with the stylus. The shoulder buttons are used to pop off four minis at once, which is useful when you’re trying to make Papa smaller quickly. The act of double-tapping a mini to render it throwable and then moving Papa to pick it up can be awkward, especially if you’re trying to quickly take out an approaching enemy.

Graphically, the game keeps it simple but effective. Mostly it consists of 2D sprites, with an amusing hand-drawn scene at the start of each area to illustrate the misadventures of each family member. The soundtrack can’t be called extensive, and it tends to get repetitive, but generally it doesn’t detract from the rest of the game.

The game could have benefited from a larger view area. While the beginning levels are rather small, later areas boast sprawling levels which take quite a bit of scrolling through to get your bearings and plan out your route. The top screen, rather than being an extension of the touch screen, is mostly filled by a cute animation that varies by which area you’re in. Rather than forcing the player to go through the tedious process of pausing to scroll a lot of the time, the developers probably could have easily had part of the level show on the top screen as well.

Boing! Docomodake is fairly short, with a few small things that may extend its life a bit. After completing each level, you get a grade from D to S based on how fast you reached the goal and how many of the coins and treasure chests you found. Ambitious players may try to score an A or an S on each level. Additionally, there is a shop where you can spend the coins you collect, although for the most part all you can buy are pictures.

For $20, Boing! Docomodake isn’t bad. You may be able to finish it in a weekend, but the experience is pleasant and certainly different from a lot of games out there. And there are three save slots, so your family members or roommates can play it too, as long as they don’t mind being a large, walking mushroom.

ESRB: Everyone

Plays like: Mario vs. Donkey Kong

Pros: simple & relaxing gameplay

Cons: not very deep or long

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.