Saturday, April 25, 2009

AAA looks at: Don Doko Don

For fans of Bubble Bobble Taito's Don Doko Don will look awfully familiar. Each level is a single screen populated by monsters of all shapes and varieties and featuring some basic level design with the goal being to destroy the monsters and get a ton of points in the process. Powerups also spawn which give players additional abilities, a special attack that clears the stage, or simply more points.

In Don Doko Don a princess is captured by the bad guys and two old carpenters(?) grab their hammers and set off on a whimsical journey to save her. This hammer has a short range sure but it stuns enemies and gives the player a chance to grab them and toss them into walls and through enemies, turning them all into fruit. If the player is not fast enough the devil(who can not be killed) will appear and chase down the player until he catches and kills them or they finish the stage. Players can also accrue lots of points by smacking a group of monsters with his hammer and then scooping them all up until he has a massive tower of bad guys. The disadvantage here is that all of the extra weight keeps them from jumping as high as usual and slowing them down. 

The concept is solid and from the makers of Bubble Bobble and other similar releases you'd expect great things from Don Doko Don. Unfortunately this just isn't the case as Don Doko Don has a number of issues that keep it from being considered competent, let alone good. To start with the super carpenter brothers are very slow. Though they gain powerups that increase their speed they're still at the mercy of their adversaries. Also these Dokos suffer from having terrible range for their hammers. Although the lack of reach is understandable the Dokos are such large targets that they don't balance well with the hammer and tend to get clobbered more often than not. Larger enemies are also a hassle since if any part of them touches any part of you you're a goner, even if they jump for a platform and don't quite make it. The range on your hammer doesn't give you any means to combat this so most of the time you're on the defensive, which is something that doesn't really work for a genre like this.

Worst of all however is that the level designs simply aren't any good. Most of them feel cluttered or clunky, with either too many platforms or they're organized in such a way that scoring and at times even survival is just a frustrating endeavor. Although the levels feature some impressive bits of variety as there's a fair number of new foes and new traps to look out for most of them come off more as new frustrations instead of new challenges.

Overall this game is just a frustrating waste of time and you can do so much better with the original Bubble Bobble or any of the other spinoffs/sequels/clones. 

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