Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: QUByte Interactive
Developer: Hungry Bear
Release Date: March 24, 2020


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Switch Review - 'Dogurai'

by Cody Medellin on July 14, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Dogurai is a retro-styled platformer with animal-like characters, graphics and soundtrack designed with old portable games in mind - down to the limited color ranges and sprite sizes!

When you think of games trying to emulate the classics, you usually think of home platforms. The NES and SNES/Genesis are prime targets, with the PlayStation starting to be considered "retro" enough for developers to mimic. The PC is also subject to this, with many of the big indies using the old MS-DOS and Amiga stuff as inspiration. It seems like handhelds are starting to get a similar treatment, as there are now a few titles that are inspired by old Game Boy offerings. One such game is Dogurai.

Like a number of games from the '80s and '90s, Dogurai doesn't start off with cut scenes to set up the story. Even the snippets of scenes and level descriptions in the game do nothing to bolster what's going on, so you'll be forgiven for the big reveal at the end not having the intended impact. If you look at the game description in the eShop, you'll learn that robots have replaced the armies and police of the world, spurring their creator into vying for world domination. You play the role of Bones, a retired member of the Special Forces who's being called back into action to stop this new threat while also investigating the whereabouts of his missing friend.

The first level does a great job of giving you the basics. You hop into a classic side-scroller with some free movement in the cardinal directions, and you must go from one end of the level to another, where the boss battle awaits. You only have three actions at your disposal: a sword slash that can be chained into a three-slash combo, a jump that can turn into a double-jump, and a slide. Oddly, while you have one button each for jumping and slashing, the slide is mapped to multiple buttons. That slide means that the levels hide a few secret areas, mostly for health, so exploration is rewarded. Some enemies will enter you into a Quick Time Event (QTE), and successful completion results in either instant death for some enemies or inflicting a lot of damage to bosses.

Once the first level is complete, Dogurai takes some inspiration from the Mega Man titles in that you have access to play four levels in any order you choose. Each level takes on a certain theme, so you'll have a level taking place in a volcano, for example, or one taking place in an airship. Each stage features a gimmick, like a motorcycle section on the military base or areas where you have to navigate icy platforms, and the bosses also fit those themes. For the most part, the stages are well thought-out, and there are some frustrating challenges, like trying to outrun lava or dodging solid laser beams, so it adheres perfectly to that retro style.

The challenges aren't completely fair, though. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that the hitboxes for some traps seem to be too deadly. The metal smashers, for example, instantly kill you when you touch them, even if you have ample room to make the save. Other times, your jump mechanic registers as a double-jump at the wrong time. This happens often on crumbling floors; after you land on them, if you quickly jump, it somehow counts as two jumps. Those few things make the platforming a bit problematic, but thankfully, the game gives you infinite lives and a decent checkpoint system. A harder difficulty is available, but since it only affords you six lives and infinite continues, the gameplay issues are amplified.

Interestingly, Dogurai doesn't provide new abilities after every level. No matter what, you're always stuck with a katana, double-jump, and slide. On the one hand, this makes things simple, but on the other hand, it's a little disappointing because even older games knew that occasionally adding a new gameplay mechanic helps keep things fresh.

Beyond that, the game is a good romp and adheres to its pseudo-Game Boy roots by being roughly two hours in length for the eight-level adventure. For those wanting to squeeze more out of the game, there is a hidden ending that's accessible if you find the four floppy discs that are hidden in the four selectable stages. It is a nice bonus, but you have to know about that beforehand, since you can't return to older levels once you reach the game's halfway point. If you find out about the true ending later, you'd need to start a brand-new game from scratch. Getting that ending also means that you can play the game again as Bones' friend, who now throws shurikens instead of using a sword; it completely transforms the experience and makes that second run worthwhile.

As you can surmise from the beginning of the review, the presentation is retro faithful to a point. The graphics emulate the small sprite look that the original Game Boy games had, so some characters aren't that distinguishable, and there are times when the background and foreground elements can be a little tricky to discern. Still, the animations are nice, and the game takes a page from the Super Game Boy by tailoring the general color scheme to each level. Unless you choose one of the presets, you'll go from the pea green of the city to the orange of the underground caves or blues used for the ice level and so forth. The only knock is that the best way to view the game is with the border intact, which makes the playable area small on the screen. Audio-wise, the effects lack any sort of punch, but the music makes up for that shortcoming. The tunes are short, and they loop often enough to mimic what the classics did, but they sound rather nice.

In the end, Dogurai makes for a nice enough retro throwback that can act as a snack between meatier titles. The game isn't too difficult, but it is simple to understand, and it apes the mechanics of older games well enough to earn that challenge. The length of the game is buoyed by the presence of two endings and a new character, while the aesthetic fits perfectly for those who want to treat the Switch as a portable rather than a home console. At $5, Dogurai is certainly worth it for those who want to scratch that retro action platforming itch.

Score: 7.5/10

More articles about Dogurai
blog comments powered by Disqus