Joystiq Review: Boing! Docomodake DS

Docomodake the mushroom is a mascot for NTT Docomo, a large Japanese cell phone company. In Japan, he's a popular enough character (like, for example, our Noid) to carry his own DS game, which was published by AQ Interactive in late 2007. Ignition Entertainment made the rather bold, baffling decision to release that DS game in North America and Europe, where not only is Docomodake an unknown property, the Docomo company itself is virtually unknown.

Why would Ignition localize Pororon! Docomodake DS, a licensed game for an unknown license? After playing the game, the reasoning became clear: because it's a wonderful little game, and because the character is more than charming enough to hold up on its own. Either that or the rights came along with AQ's Blue Dragon Plus. But we prefer the former explanation.


Boing! Docomodake DS is the story of Papa Docomodake, who goes out into the woods to rescue his mushroom family, all of whom have become lost or trapped in some adorable way, and who appear on the top screen as the adventure plays out. To navigate the dangerous and suspiciously puzzle-filled forest, Papa Docomodake relies on his power to split into several smaller versions of himself. These Minis can be moved around the screen with the stylus, stacked and used as a ladder, thrown at enemies, set atop switches, and used to hold down platforms. Papa Docomodake also gets smaller as he divests himself of Minis, which allows him to get through small passages.

Managing the limited supply of Minis is the basis for most of Docomodake's challenge. It may take two Minis, for example, to lower a platform enough for Papa to access it, but another one may be needed to hold a switch down so he can pass through a barricade to get to it. And then he may have to climb a small ladder of Minis to make the jump. If any of the Minis are hurt in the level by enemies, or if they aren't placed before the path to their required location is closed, then you may have to try again or even restart the level.

Docomodake's mix of control-pad platforming with stylus-based Mini manipulation is an inventive genre mashup that would only work on the DS. It combines light platforming with interesting, unique puzzle layouts. It's not especially challenging or long, but there is a bit of incentive to replay in the form of optional coins and treasures to pick up in each level, along with a time-based grade system. But most of the impetus for playing Docomodake lies in the fact that playing Docomodake is uncomplicated fun without frustration.

It's the kind of mellow, engaging game that I want to play as a break from other games. That I'd have such a pleasant experience with a game that I expected to be a soulless piece of advertising is one of 2009's best gaming surprises yet.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.