For the first 15 minutes of Doki-Doki Universe I was wondering what this was. I was by no means aware of the eccentricity of the product and what my role was precisely. The work of HumaNature Studios was highlighted in a promotional event by Sony in the first half of this year and many of the most attentive ones stayed with him on the idea but now the question arose: “After all, what is Doki-Doki?” If indie products excel at difference, bold concepts and uniqueness, as well as the ability to be free of prejudice to take forms that traditional retail AAA could never dare, Doki-Doki seems to raise the scale of the strange, bold and absurd to new levels.
Not that this is bad, it may even be good, as it gives the product a distinctive tone, but it can alienate a large part of consumers. Doki-Doki will face a first and arduous test when placing himself in front of the player, the need to catalog and insert it in a genre. Well then, Doki can be considered as an adventure game, almost in the point and click way but with many differences. Still, it is a kind of graphic adventure full of puzzles and spices that alternate between this eccentricity and a good dose of tenderness.
Doki-Doki is a Japanese term that indicates something that hits quickly and in this case we have the allusion to a universe in rapid motion that seems to be different from day to day. The idea that the studio was here to apply a pun based on words to address the current human condition seemed to be reinforced and the whole support story highlights this. Here we meet a robot that was abandoned by his family and after 30 years of waiting, he decides with his balloon to go looking for what makes us human so that his family receives him again. For this it counts on the help of an extraterrestrial knowledgeable.
A robot that wants to know what it is to be human will have the help of an extraterrestrial who will introduce him to new planets where he will have to help humans and other creatures in the most mundane, eccentric or unreasonable tasks that represent well the stigmas and behavioral patterns of today’s human society. All of this with the naivety that could come from a children’s story. Almost as if the ABC of “What makes us human?” Is it the ability to love, envy, control, manipulate, share or the whole set of these and more?
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From planet to planet, QT3 will have to help its inhabitants with their requests. Its ability to create items from nothing is the main point of the gameplay and when a inhabitant puts us before his dilemma there we will have to investigate and create the desired item. During this process he also learns what it is like to be human and learns about what each inhabitant likes or dislikes in conversation with the others. At some point QT3 compares love to vomiting, spreads everywhere and we can’t control it.
This is simply one of many possible examples of how Doki uses humor to create a storyline that will have a charm far superior to his gameplay. In fact, all dialogues gain interest in the player because at any time they can give you pearls or moments of admiration that you will not want to miss. On the other hand, gameplay becomes boring and repetitive with each step of the robot and the difficulty is never present.
The procedure is all very simple, in a two-dimensional plan in a kind of cardboard world, we will go for a walk to find the inhabitants, find hidden decorations, help the inhabitants according to their requests and in exchange to obtain information about humans and gifts. The game has been purposely simplified to allow the association of ideas / requests in the dialogues to be easily matched with the creation of the necessary item, so the puzzles here have no depth in them as a game tool.
Where they will be important, once again, is in the way they fit in and reflect the storyline because we feel that the whole planet and all its inhabitants are in tune with each new stage. However, quickly everything becomes too repetitive and not all eccentricity or good humor can save the game. At least for a large majority and I believe that only a minority will be able to stay true to the game after roaming the first five planets. We easily understand that Doki does nothing wrong but also what he does is not as appealing as it could be.
After knowing his new planet, QT3 meets the psychiatrist who will accompany him in his psychological and behavioral assessment. It will be vital in the game process as it indicates how we are evolving. Whenever he wishes, the robot can appeal to the ridiculousness in the game, which is in no way ashamed to play with himself, call his mount, which can even be a pig with wings and fly through space to reach new planets. Along the way you will find asteroids with questionnaires that will help define your personality before the psychiatrist and decide what type of people QT3 (the player more properly) is, what your Yin Yang balance is and whether your personality is more creative or rational.
Imagine those questionnaires on the internet but in the form of a video game with a huge sense of humor and an innocence typical of children’s books and you begin to understand Doki-Doki. Even so, the constant walking backwards and forwards to speak to one inhabitant at the request of another to satisfy him with a specific item and then return to the other and perform the same procedure is something that begins to lose grace quickly. Even with some planets that achieve a more consistent narrative line that encompasses almost the whole, Doki can sometimes be too simplified for his own taste. Compensates with sweetness.
Its appearance is very peculiar. Manage cookie settings
This sweetness can be special in its maximum exponent, mainly when it tries to appeal to the player to get involved and they leave a little more of themselves in each decision, especially in the dialogues and questionnaires. We often encounter characters who give us a feeling that Doki could be a book to read at bedtime for children and that it would probably be worthy of appreciation, which is very interesting. Now we already know that Doki is simple, we know that he is sweet and wrapped in some tenderness that combines the irreverent with the beautiful, but Doki is also highly crazy.
When we are asked to unite a bird with its scarecrow, or to help a cactus to see a dolphin, we know that there are moral lessons here that, instead of coming to fortune cookies, arrive in Doki’s stories and cartoon characters. Representations of society, behavioral satires, recreations of clichés, inspiration in fantasies, in fact Doki seems to have everything. This is the most special point of his appeal and the main part that leads us to continue to endure his weaknesses.
Doki does not last long, it lasts long enough for the player to finish it (if you have the patience) and to touch it without wishing to return. After that, he stays with the idea for everything he gave him in terms of concept and narrative, not for the execution of the ideas but rather for the ones themselves. Its look is one of the points that will help keep Doki in memory for some time, this world seems to come straight out of a cardboard book and a lot seems to have been drawn by hand. Many of those who are going to enter this universe will do it by the force of the visual appeal to discover a concept and deep design but that in practice does not work so well.
Doki-Doki Universe was one of Sony’s highlights when it announced indie support for PlayStaton 4 earlier this year. It was a curious and unique game that could only be the result of these kinds of experiences that have gained so much fame and acclaim in recent times. It is not exactly the most fun of all the indies you will find and the gameplay is too basic to entertain and challenge in the medium term. It gets boring quickly even, if not managed carefully. Your good mood, sweetness, eccentricity and humor will be the main condiments that can hold you and the feeling here will be to want more without really understanding why, but enter this journey carefully.