Do you have a particular fondness for retro platformers? If so, Dogurai might be right up your alley. As far as retro games go, Dogurai gets a lot right, with its pixelated Game Boy-inspired graphics and tight controls. At times though, it leans too heavily into its inspiration and brings down what would otherwise be an excellent game.
There’s a lot to love about Dogurai. Everything about the presentation is mostly well done, from the graphics to the soundtrack. One nice graphical feature is that you can change the color palette from the standard green. I personally played with the dynamic palette, which changes color based on which level you’re currently playing. However, on occasion, the character sprites and the background would blend together, making it rather hard to see.
Outside of the presentation, the gameplay is also fairly tight. The control scheme is incredibly light, as you might expect, and your only options are jumping (you have a double jump), attacking, and sliding. You also have a special attack you can use on bosses and large enemies, which takes the form of a simple quick-time event. Given your limited abilities, the controls should feel impeccable, and luckily they hold up.
The game’s eight levels are visually and mechanically unique and feature ideas common among platformers. For example, the volcano level sees the protagonist race through a maze against flowing lava, while the cryolab stage features ice physics. These stages aren’t overly difficult, providing fairness overall. In only one segment did I start to really get frustrated since I just had to repeatedly die until I learned the layout. Luckily, I was playing on Normal so I had unlimited lives, but I imagine doing that segment on Hard (with limited lives) would have been really rough.
For everything Dogurai gets right though, there’s one major thing it does wrong. The game is extremely light on explaining its universe, to the point where it practically doesn’t describe anything at all. Aside from a few brief level descriptions, there’s no indication of why you’re going on this adventure. You just do. If it weren’t for the game’s description, I’d have no idea what the plot is. Exploring each of the levels, you can find NPCs that have absolutely no discernible reason to exist. You’ll also find a few collectables that unlock the game’s true ending, but again, there’s no explanation as to what these things are or that they even exist. I understand that Game Boy titles often were light on story, though as a modern release, I still think there’s room for a lot more than what Dogurai provides.
There’s also the issue of replayability. Dogurai doesn’t come off as a game tailored to repeated sessions very well. After completing your first playthrough, you unlock the ability to play as a different dog, who throws shuriken instead of relying on a sword for combat. Aside from this key difference, nothing really changed, and as such, I didn’t feel compelled to keep going through the end. I don’t expect a ton of replayability out of a game like this, but more could’ve been done to differentiate subsequent playthroughs. The game is good for a romp or two, but there isn’t anything to keep players coming back afterwards.
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a brief, action-filled romp, Dogurai is a great game to look into. Featuring a killer soundtrack, tight controls, and a good difficulty balance, Dogurai has almost everything I would expect from a retro-styled experience. However, it does practically nothing to explain what’s going on with the story or the universe, so don’t expect to get into things too deeply on that front. But given the entire package, my time with Dogurai still proved to be enjoyable, if only for a few hours.
A review code was provided by the publisher.