Name: Boing! Docomodake
Genre: Platform, Puzzle
Platform: Nintendo DS
Boing! Docomodake is mascot for NTT docomo, Inc, a Japanese cell phone company you’ve likely never heard of. If that doesn’t completely rope you in, nothing will. The main character, the adorable Docomodake, has been made into every bit of merchandise imaginable overseas, and a videogame is the natural extension for the company’s marketing team. Releasing it abroad, however, is an entirely different story, and doesn’t really make a huge amount of sense. Hearing that a game is essentially a gigantic piece of product placement is usually a death note in the industry, but Boing! Docomodake emerges unscathed as a surprisingly fun and creative platformer.
As expected, players control Papa Docomodake on a search to find his family. They've been scattered throughout game’s eight worlds, and Papa needs to traverse each of the different locations to reunite with them. Each world ends in a moral involving family and love, which would have deeper meaning if the protagonist wasn’t a cell phone mascot. Or a mushroom. It doesn’t matter if he’s reciting Shakespeare, there’s just something a little strange about receiving an ethical dialogue from a character that’s once removed from Cool Spot. Even so, the little mushroom is endearing, and his appeal will likely hit a cord with some of the younger gamers picking up the title. The visual style and music match the childish look, with sleek visuals and catchy music.
Both the d-pad and face buttons move Docomodake around, while the shoulder buttons split him up into several small mushrooms that can be manipulated via the touch screen. They can moved around, groupled, and pulled anywhere, with little reguard for gravity or physics. Papa doesn't have this ability, and needs to rely on creative use of the fungi to progress through the game. Besides basic platforming, the core gameplay involves manipulating the little creatures in different ways. Throwing them at enemies, for instance, destroys both the foe and harms the mushroom, and Papa Docomodake needs to rush to their aid before time runs out.
Other more obvious uses, like putting them on switches, making ladders out of them, or creating platforms using their small, mushroom-capped heads, are also effective, and the game blends puzzling and platforming in an interesting way. This might sound similar to some other games on the market, but any comparisons would be a disservice to Boing! It’s a fairly unique experience, but that doesn’t mean it’s a fantastic one. While it definitely gets marks for being original, the gameplay can become fairly repetitive, and it never really grows beyond mildly entertaining.
The game’s 50 levels go by fairly quickly, and reward players with a grade based on the percentage of items collected and their total time spent on the stage. Completionists will have no problem finding value and replayability in this title, but there’s little more than a day’s worth of content for most. Even so, at a budgeted price tag it has already made great strides in separating itself from the surplus of overpriced mediocrity that haunts the DS. Credit should be given to the developers for turning the game into something more than a gigantic commercial, but that doesn't mean it's a must-buy.