(No Steam trials this weekend, so I thought I'd review another mobile game. Thanks to Johnson 'Blue' Siau for the recommendation!)

GungHo Online Entertainment's Dokuro, available on the PS Vita, PC, iOS and Android, is a cute and quirky puzzle platformer in which you play as a skeleton worker trying to save a weeping princess from marrying the Dark Lord under duress. Flip switches, fight monsters, drink form-altering potions, and use magical chalk to guide the princess to safety.


Brilliantly Simple

Teaching the jumping skill.
The mobile version's controls are wonderfully clear.

Each of the buttons are well-placed (so I'm not pressing jump when I mean to attack, &c) and made big enough to press but not so large that they obscure the screen.
'Use' icon example

And, when you're trying to learn a new skill, the game displays a chalkboard in a Portal-esque fashion to demonstrate the new feature or explain a mechanic better.

Dokuro also succeeds in conserving screen space -- when the skeleton can interact with an object on that level, the sword 'attack' icon is replaced with the use 'hand' icon. Since the skeleton can only interact with specific items (chalk, potions, levers, &c), it makes sense to remove the 'use' icon as a permanent fixture on the UI.


Clean Menus

In addition to having easy controls, Dokuro's menus are also nice and clean. As shown to the left, the main menu clearly displays what options players can select -- and the pictures are pretty darn cute.

One thing that I liked -- although didn't try out -- is that the game also allows the players to change the button layout on the screen depending on device.



Writing at length is trickier when reviewing simpler games, I've found. The issues I've uncovered in many other games (namely, convoluted controls and redundancies) are absent entirely in the mobile version of Dokuro. The game is as lean as its skeleton protagonist -- everything stripped down to bare bones while still looking and feeling good. I would have liked to compare the Android and Steam versions -- but the PC version is $9.99 (!!), and I didn't feel like buying a second copy of the same game.

While reading other reviews on Steam and Google Play, it sounds like others feel that some of the game levels are needlessly difficult -- but that hasn't been my experience at all. The levels felt balanced to me -- with enough practice, skill, and timing, really any level can be beat. Just be prepared to die -- and see the princess die -- in numerous ways.

After tax, you can buy Dokuro on Google Play for $2.15. It's very good -- I highly recommend it.

The Flame in the Flood, currently in beta release for Kickstarter backers, is a rogue-like, exploration-survival game that is rewarding and challenging. Within the 2 hours I've already played, I've died  from dysentery, hypothermia, sepsis, wolf attacks, drowning, and starvation.

Truly, I found few usability problems in TFIF: its UI is sleek and minimalist, and has one of the better HUDs ('Head-Up Display', for you non-gamers out there) I've seen in a game for a while. The Flame in the Flood shines in its simplicity of both game and interface design.



Top: starting status, bottom: nearly dead

Playing TFIF is, in a way, a matter of balance: the more depleted your needs-meter (More accurately, deathometer), the closer to death you are. You are also shown status effect markers, which are explained on-screen as your status changes (so my character is wet, suffering from hypothermia, and has two lacerations).

The simplicity of the deathometer HUD is fool-proof: there are no numbers to read, no percentages to calculate. There is no "oops, you die" in TFIF-- you see your impending doom quite clearly on the screen. None of my deaths felt unfair (the speed at which the character starves and dehydrates is shocking at first, but you get used to it).


  • If there was one thing I might change about the HUD, though, it's the color of the temperature and sleep markers. My brothers are red-green colorblind, and one (thanks, Carson) said that the sleep and temperature brown/orange colors over a green background would be "bothersome" and "annoying" to look at. dd


A Different Perspective

For curiosity's sake, I put TFIF in front of my boyfriend and asked for his opinion. His was very different from mine. So, here are some of the highlights.

Since the icons above each crafting topic (clothing, consumables, &c) are all [ - ], rather than [ + ], he assumed that all of the menus were completely expanded. He was surprised -- and frustrated -- when he couldn't figure out how to make tinder because he thought he didn't have the materials.

Also, "Select Item To Craft" is missing the T in craft, a matter of spacing I'm sure.


It's also likely a matter of missing content, but he expected to see more descriptions (like written for the Light Boots) for other items when he clicked on the icons.

Also, "bare foot" should be "barefoot."

He also thought that the rafting tooltip ought to have mentioned that you'd see orange markers for upcoming landmarks, and that he could only visit islands with docks (he said otherwise he'd first run into any island, thinking he could get on it), but I think for both of those the player just needs to run into the island once or see the orange markers to understand what they are. Trial and error.

I also found it interesting that he preferred the status bars (as displayed under the journal) more than the HUD that I raved about above. He's a precision gamer, and likes to know exactly how much time/health he has at any given moment. (I'm more fluid 'bout that. Ehh, if I die, I die.)


I highly recommend The Flame in the Flood to my readers. It's great fun, and reminds me hardcore of playing Oregon Trail when I was younger (survival + fording rivers + dysentery + the game is wicked fun). If you buy it when it comes out, I hope you have as much fun as I have.

Thanks for reading, all. It's a pleasure to play these games and know that others are enjoying the reviews.

Final notes about the game:

Additional Notes to Devs

  • "Anonymous" is misspelled on the consent page.
  • Also on consent page, "first 2 biomes" should be "first two biomes."
  • The materials stack number doesn't decrease when crafting an item (such as tinder). So before crafting the it's 5/1, after crafting it's still 5/1 but you have tinder.
  • As has been mentioned by other reviewers, it'd be great to be able to skip the animations. While they're cute and the music is great, it gets repetitive (especially as you're just learning the game and dying every 10 minutes or less). 
  • When closing tutorial bubbles or loot lists, it shows the Esc key, but sometimes when you then press Esc it closes the bubble and then opens up the Instructions menu.
  • I'd love for there to be a 'loot all' shortcut button.
  • On the Instructions menu, "open up addition crafting" should be "open up additional crafting"
  • Currently on the beta, it says 'press L2 to set traps' (or something similar). ...what is it for the PC? In a couple places there's language for consoles, and others PC.
  • I had all the materials to make the metal hammer, but the game kept saying that I was missing mats.