I don’t know what to make of Doki Doki Universe.
Not a confession you want to hear from a reviewer, but it’s honest.
As a game, it’s not great. In fact on paper it seems like a complete mess. Your goal is to control a robot named QT3 as he travels from planet to planet across Doki Doki Universe in a quest to understand humanity.
Along the way you’ll meet a huge cast of characters that populates the many planets and try and help them reach their goals. Some are simple, like a cake wanting some ice cream but others are more of a driven quest that force you to visit new locations to gather items that will help your new friends.
To succeed you must find presents filled with items and select the correct ones for the puzzle in front of you. It evokes elements of Scribblenauts but, due to limitations to whatever you can summon, it’s more focused. Along your travels you’ll be asked some personality questions that help form a report on the players’s personality.
And well, that’s it. That is the game on offer and it even fails to get that right. It’s full of little problems that hold it back from being anything other than an average game.
Despite being pretty open in its overall set-up, the course of the quests themselves are far too structured. After talking to a character for a while I moved onto the next only for them to tell me that I needed to talk to the initial one. Only then is the mission at hand activated.
I’d also occasionally skip ahead with what the game was asking me to do and, despite my summoning the correct object in advance, it didn’t move the story along and I had to do the same task again to achieve my goal after the correct trigger had been pulled.
The controls can be a bit messy too, with the many different actions being spread across the whole pad. This means that you’ll press the wrong button on a few occasions. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that some actions anger characters and hurt relationships.
Why, then, was I so addicted to Doki Doki Universe
? Why did I keep saying to myself that I needed to stop playing only to continue for another hour or so?
It’s just so god damn charming. Its 2D art is nothing to write home about, but within its own weird bubble of fun it comes together and looks fitting. The many different characters are instantly recognisable. Their distinctness offers the player the opportunity to judge a character before a word is spoken, but things get even better once it has.
The writing in Doki Doki Universe
is where the game excels. Funny, natural and full of pop culture references it makes each line enjoyable, and that’s the key that kept me playing. I constantly wanted to see what was round the corner.
The way characters react to what you’re doing in the world makes everything seem living, especially when you summon the wrong item for them. You’re usually given a pithy response followed by a clue to where you went wrong, without it seeming to be too much of a gaming mechanic.
The music is fantastic, which shouldn’t come as a surprise when you hear that Greg Johnson - the man behind Toejam and Earl
- is involved. Most of the music could be stripped straight from the classic and its toe tapping beats still hold ground today.
While exploring the universe you’ll come across asteroids with personality tests in them. They’re fun little questions that the game uses to try to work out what type of person is playing. They should be boring, but the questions are so bizarre that they’re actually fun.
At the end of each test Dr Therapist will then make some assumptions about you. My initial reaction was to get offended. “You don’t know me” and “Who the hell do you think you are?” was screamed at the telly before I read what he was saying and had to admit that he was pretty accurate.
The game makes some pretty generic comments about your personality. “You’re Humble” could pretty much apply to anyone. But the more you play, the more it starts to nail your personal attributes. “You’re plot-driven” was one that hit home, and those that know what I like about the games I play will know that I’m exactly that.
It can be a little hit and miss in places, but it drives you to take more tests just too see how much it can work out about you and ultimately and the information it provides is presented in such a charming manner that you’ll never feel as though it’s just repeating the same old assumptions back at you.
Doki Doki Universe
will be divisive. Some will not look past its repetitive gameplay, simple visual style and quests that are far too trigger based. Others will fall in love with the quirkiness, exploration and the well written dialogue.
I fall somewhere in between. Although its flaws irritated me, I couldn’t put it down. It made me laugh, it confused the hell out of me and it even taught me a thing or two about myself.
It has certainly been an interesting experience, but not one I’d recommend for everyone.
+ Excellent writing
+ Great soundtrack
+ Reasonably accurate at judging your personality
- Structured quests can frustrate
SPOnG Score: 3/5