Review: DodoGo! Robo (Nintendo DSI)

DodoGo! Robo
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Alien After All
Publisher: Neko Entertainment
Release Date: 04/18/11

Indirect interaction puzzle games, IE games where you play not as the main character but as some unseen force assisting said character, are somewhat on the downswing at this point. While games like Lemmings and Pac Man 2: The New Adventures were great fun in their day, games of that sort aren’t as common as they once were, though one supposes that Psygnosis and those who later acquired them beating the Lemmings franchise into the ground so hard it came out in China didn’t help much. Action puzzle games are making something of a comeback, after a fashion, with games like Braid, Limbo and Outland becoming astonishingly popular, so it stands to reason that other puzzle game styles of the 80’s and 90’s could be brought back in the same fashion with similar success, which brings us to DodoGo! Robo. Based around the Lemmings concept of helping one or more morons survive with various tools provided to you, DodoGo! Robo tasks you with getting a robotic egg through each stage presented with your tools and wits, hopefully collecting all of the collectibles available along the way. While the game doesn’t quire re-create the magic of Lemmings and its ilk, it’s a fair attempt at this sort of game, and as a two dollar game on the DSI download service, it more than justifies its asking price.

DodoGo! Robo actually has a story associated with it, though it’s really not a major part of the experience. 65 million years ago, a robo-dodo from the future named D-800 arrives on “Domo Island” to train dodos to survive harsh conditions with the use of robo-eggs, which are essentially mobile dodo eggs that are about as hardy… and intelligent. D-800 is essentially the trainer in this endeavor, leaving it to you to actually save the robo-eggs you encounter. D-800 will pop up frequently to explain new tools and provide hints, but otherwise, the plot is relegated to the beginning and end of the game, making no other appearances of note, and while it’s inoffensive enough, it’s also mostly insubstantial. Insofar as modes are concerned, there’s really only the main mode of play, where you plot through the various stages one after the next, solving the puzzles presented you until you’re finished, and while it’s a fairly lengthy and in-depth mode, there’s nothing to the game but this thing. As such, once you’re done with the main game, you’re done with the game entirely, more or less, and while it’s hard to imagine quite what one could have done to add to this game, mode-wise, it’s still something to be noted about the product.

DodoGo! Robo is generally solid looking enough for a DIS title, as the animations of your egg and the tools in play are clean, and the visuals, though not pushing the technical limits of the console, are interesting and enjoyable enough to be adequate. There’s not a lot of variety to the visuals, as the game makes use of the same general toolbox of images from one level to the next with a few new things added every so often, but the visuals are generally amusing enough to be enjoyable and there aren’t any obvious issues with them. The audio consists of a handful of simple song loops that are cute and fit the somewhat silly theme of the game well enough, as well as a handful of sound effects that are generally fitting for the different tools and your robo-egg and such. Again, none of the audio is spectacular, so to say, but it’s serviceable and not bad at all, so much as it’s simply limited, and you’ll likely not find fault with it.

As DodoGo! Robo is very much based in the Lemmings mold, the concept is the same: at the beginning of the stage sits your robo-egg, and you have to create a safe way for said egg to make it to the end of the stage. To do this thing, you’re given various tools in various amounts, which are intended to get said egg through the stage intact, such as fragile boards to block its path or allow it across holes, springs to bounce it to new places, shovels to flatten earth or dig holes, brushes to set fire to wooden obstacles, and so on. Whenever a new tool is introduced, you’re given a brief tutorial on how said tool works, then given a couple stages to try it out before the game puts your skills to the test for a bit, after which it introduces the next tool, and so on until you have them all… at which point the game puts your skills to the test. The tools are provided to you in finite amounts, so you’ll have, say, five springs, three boards and two brushes to get through a stage in the safest way possible, which you can place as you see fit, more or less. The game allows you whatever amount of time you need in the beginning of the stage to place the tools you need, and you can restart the stage any time with the pause button in the bottom right corner, or automatically if the egg eats it, to try again if you don’t get the path just right.

In an added bit of challenge, the game also asks you to collect various icons with the robo-egg as you have it pass through the level, which you’ll want to do as you’ll need to have a certain amount to progress forward in the game at times. Getting the egg through the stage might not, in and of itself, be so bad, but doing so AND getting all of the available icons in the process is somewhat more challenging no matter what the level, and it adds an interesting dimension to the gameplay of being economical with your tools as the situation merits. The game also, in a nice touch, remembers where your tools are until you complete the stage and leave, meaning you can pause or bite it and come back to the “toolz” (as the game calls it) screen with all of your placed tools where you left them. You can erase the tools you’ve placed, place new ones, and maneuver around the map all with the stylus, and everything is fluid and easy to work with for the most part. The game offers a fairly large amount of stages to plow through as well, each more challenging than the last (well, except for the tutorial stages, but that’s to be expected), so fans of puzzle games should have plenty of fun taxing their brains trying to figure out how to make their way through the stages in one piece while collecting everything. Also, and this is important, the game is two dollars. For the price of a cup of coffee you could get a lengthy puzzle game on the DSI service, and that’s not bad.

That said, as DodoGo! Robo tends to be in the Lemmings mold, it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table to expand upon or reinvent that genre, and seems content to simply be what it is. As such, if you’re not a fan of those sorts of games or you’re still tired of them, you’re not going to find anything here to interest you. Further, while the game is a lot of fun at two dollars, it’s a one-and-done experience; while you can go back to earlier stages and try to clear out all of the emblems if you missed any, there’s no reason to go back otherwise, and there are no other modes to the game outside of the single player missions. On a minor note, moving the display around with the stylus also isn’t very friendly, and while it works, it’s not well implemented; as you can move the display around with the D-pad it’s not a game breaker, and you can eventually learn to work with the stylus controls, but it’s not easy to work with all in all.

For a two dollar downloadable game, DodoGo! Robo is quite robust in its offerings, all in all, and it’s generally well designed enough to be worthwhile as a download for anyone who enjoys Lemmings or other such games, though it’s unlikely to make a fan of anyone who isn’t. The story is somewhat one dimensional, the visuals and audio are serviceable but unexciting in most respects, and the game is somewhat limited in its scope, but where the game shines is its gameplay. It’s well designed for the sort of game it is, maintains its balance across its fairly robust amount of levels, and is generally well designed all in all. Granted, it has some minor hiccups when moving the environment around with the stylus, and it’s essentially the sort of game you play once and once only, but it’s a fun and challenging experience for a very low price that’s well worth it if you’re a puzzle game fan. DodoGo! Robo is really the sort of game that small developers with limited budgets should be putting out; it knows it’s not the most technically impressive game on the market, and instead impresses with interesting and enjoyable gameplay mechanics that make it worth a download for just about anyone, especially at the low price.

The Scores:
Story/Game Modes: MEDIOCRE
Graphics: ABOVE AVERAGE
Sound: MEDIOCRE
Control/Gameplay: GOOD
Replayability: MEDIOCRE
Balance: GREAT
Originality: MEDIOCRE
Addictiveness: GREAT
Appeal: GOOD
Miscellaneous: GREAT

FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME.

Short Attention Span Summary:
DodoGo! Robo is a fun and interesting take on the puzzle game genre popularized by games like Lemmings, and while it’s largely not going to convince people who aren’t fans of that sort of puzzle game of its value, as a two dollar download, it’s generally good enough to be recommendable to those who’ve never tried such games. It’s not a technical marvel, visually or aurally, and it’s not an exceptionally diverse product, all in all, but it does what it does very well, providing a challenging and fun puzzle experience that’s generally well designed. There are some issues moving the display with the stylus and the game doesn’t have much to offer once you’ve cleared the single player stages, but there are more than enough stages to play through to keep the game interesting for a while, and the game is inexpensive and entertaining enough that it justifies ownership. DodoGo! Robo is a cute and enjoyable game that’s easy to recommend to puzzle game fans of all kinds, as its strengths are many and its flaws are minor, and for the two dollar price tag, it’s well worth checking out.

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