It’s somewhat ironic that DodoGo! Robo - a game in which players protect a gaggle of ill-fated aves from certain death - should arrive on DSiWare. With the exception of Mario vs. Donkey Kong and Nintendo’s very own Art Style games – which spliced inventive gameplay mechanics with retina-appeasing visuals – the service has itself gone the way of the dodo in recent months. Third party developers have all but abandoned the service, and while it looks as though we’ll have to wait for the 3DS eShop for our digitally-downloadable thrills, DodoGo! Robo bridges the gap quite nicely.
A puzzle game in the style of Lemmings, DodoGo! Robo certainly has a lot going for it – especially when you consider its rather handsome, 200 point price tag. Set 65 million years ago during the Cretaceous era, players assume the role of D-800, a cyborg bird programmed to teach dodos how to survive the death-defying hazards of the Cretaceous era with the help of robo eggs – synthetic replicas of fragile dodo eggs. But that’s just linguistic garnish of course, because everyone knows that a great puzzler lives and dies on its mechanics – and fortunately, DodoGo! Robo holds up very well indeed.
Essentially a simplified version of its forerunners, DodoGo! Robo is an enjoyable distillation of everything that made the original games so entertaining. Where DodoGo! Challenge saw players guiding several eggs around hazard-filled stages and into their protective nests, DodoGo! Robo reduces the number of eggs to just one, making for a far more streamlined experience. But that’s not to say DodoGo! Robo is a cake-walk: devilish level design and well-placed obstacles make this third outing one heck of a head-scratcher.
Perhaps the greatest change, however, is the lack of interactivity between players and their eggs. The eggs in DodoGo! Challenge could be given direct commands, allowing them to stop and change directions mid-level. That’s all been stripped out for DodoGo! Robo though, and it’s a move that ratchets up the strategic element of the game considerably. It’s now impossible to edit the route of your robo-egg once the level has begun, meaning that any mistakes made will result in failure, as robo-eggs shuffle towards Death’s door with unyielding faith in your assigned route.
Careful planning, then, is crucial for achieving success, as players will need to use the Toolz editor to its fullest to keep their eggs from getting damaged. The Toolz editor grants players an inventory of items needed to traverse the level unscathed, and the items themselves haven’t changed since the original game. Wooden planks can be used to cross chasms (or bounced into to change direction) springboards can be installed to increase momentum, fires can be started to destroy obstacles, saws can be used to cut rope and wood, and soil can be dug up or placed with your shovel. The game limits the amount of times you can use these items during each level, but if you’re simply looking to reach the exit, there’s no need to use them all.
It’s worth saying, however, that players will need to collect enough “targets” in each given level before than can progress to the later stages of the game. The quantity of available targets varies by level, but it’s safe to say that nabbing them all is a challenge, since players will need to use every tool available to them perfectly with no margin for error whatsoever. That may sound a little off-putting, but DodoGo! Robo’s focus on achieving perfection first time actually works in the game’s favour. The unique, hands-off approach during levels makes for a soothing experience, since you needn’t work against the clock or deal with enemies, as in Ivy the Kiwi and Yoshi: Touch & Go. All the hard work takes place during the Toolz editor, resulting in an experience not dissimilar to Sudoku.
It’s a shame that the game hasn’t been given a lick of paint since the original DodoGo!, though. Putting aside the game’s robotic eggs, very little has changed at all on the visual front whatsoever. That said, the game’s muted colour palette and chirpy soundtrack does go some way to giving the game a burst of charm and charisma, and there’s no denying it’s still one of the prettiest DSiWare games on the market.
If you’ve yet to download the ace original, DodoGo! Robo is definitely worth a look. It may not be as big, bold and intelligent as its forebear, but as a starter to the main dish, it’s certainly worth your time and money. Fans of the original might be disappointed by the limited scope of the game, but if you’re new to the franchise and fancy playing a top-notch puzzler on the cheap, you could do far worse than to snap up DodoGo! Robo.
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