Doki-Doki Universe is a game that’s just so cute and innocent it’s hard to completely hate. It’s as if one day you happen upon a cute little kitten all alone in an alley. You decide to bring that cute little kitten home with you because damn if it isn’t the smallest, fluffiest little thing you ever saw; innocent and helpless how could it possibly survive alone in this cruel world? The first day home that little kitten meows and plays with dust balls on the carpet and all is well with the world. You go to sleep later that day with your faith in the world restored. The next morning you awaken late for work to find that the cute little kitten turned into the devil incarnate overnight. Your couch is ripped to shreds, poop litters the floor and some undistinguishable bodily fluid rests in the corner near a partially eaten plant. Right in the middle of the destruction sits cute little kitty, purring and slowly wagging its tail; so cute and innocent.
This is what Doki-Doki is like, a cute kitten that you just can’t despise no matter how bad it sucks.
Let me start by saying that Doki-Doki is a game I’d almost certainly not buy. However, since it was free for PlayStation Plus members in July I figured it was worth a try. Doki-Doki is a kid’s game first and foremost. It’s quite possible that if I were 15 years younger my opinion would be slightly less critical. This is also not to say the game is worthless though because it’s not. Before I get too far ahead of myself though, let me go back and start from the beginning.
In Doki-Doki Universe you play a robot named QT3 whose human owners decided to pull the old bring your dog to the country trick. QT3’s owners essentially drop him off on a small deserted planet and tell him they’ll be right back. Well spoiler alert, they don’t ever come back. QT3 is left waiting for over 30 years on the planet with only a balloon to keep him company, all the while expecting his family to return. One day a little alien in a little space ship finds QT3 and picks him up. The alien, named Jeff, explains that he is from a robot manufacturing plant and is tasked to pick QT3 up and reprogram him. Jeff goes on to explain that his model is defective and lacks the proper amount of humanity. He suggests that this, perhaps, is why his family left him. But instead of rushing off to the plant, Jeff instead gives Doki-Doki the opportunity to explore the galaxy and attempt to “learn” humanity. This is an interesting paradox if you pause to think about it. QT3, whom we come to find out is innocent and helpful, is forced to learn what it is to be more “human” while his human family displayed a complete lack of humanity by abandoning him on a deserted planet. Perhaps becoming more human is not all it’s cracked up to be?
In order to increase his humanity QT3 must visit many different planets and help their inhabitants. This essentially boils down to QT3 interacting with the planet’s many characters to discern their likes and dislikes. When you select a character in Doki-Doki you are presented with three choices. You can look at their character sheet, which will show the likes and dislikes you have already discovered, you can talk to the character, or you can summon a… summonable. What the heck is that you ask? Well QT3 has the ability to make objects pop into existence. For example, QT3 might opt to summon a rock n’ roll chicken or a beautiful princess. As QT3 continues his quest, he is awarded additional summonables by helping characters and finding presents. These summonables can in turn be used to help additional characters in different lands.
In addition to developing relationships and learning about the many characters in Doki-Doki Universe, the game also attempts to help you learn about yourself. Throughout the game you will take several personality tests. The test reveal if you are kind, inventive, opportunistic, etc. These tests help to determine your progress in the game but also build a profile about the player if taken honestly. It’s an interesting concept and one that might actually help you understand what kind of a person you are. I can’t speak to the accuracy or merit of the tests and the results since I’m but a humble IT professional, but I can say they are an interesting and entertaining play mechanic.
The graphics in Doki-Doki Universe and colorful but simple. The entire game looks like a hand drawn cartoon. The problem here though is the game doesn’t seem to have been optimized for the PS Vita and often times performs very sluggishly. This is in no way the Vita’s fault as I’ve played game with FAR more graphic detail that run silky smooth on the Vita.
Doki-Doki on the PS Vita makes good use of its unique interface options. Many tasks can be completed with the front and rear touch screens. For example, you can touch a character to select it, touch the options that are available, lift up objects or characters, and make dialogue selections all with the front touch screen. QT3 can also use emotes to make characters happy. These emotes are done by touching the rear touchpad in different ways.
At its heart, Doki-Doki Universe is a game about relationships.
There are no guns, or bombs, or villains to defeat. To progress in Doki-Doki Universe is to learn about each character and help them solve any issues they have. In this respect, Doki-Doki Universe is an admirable and unique game. Unfortunately, Doki-Doki’s many shortcomings ended up detracting from an original and wholesome game.
The main issue is repetitiveness. The gameplay in Doki-Doki Universe can essentially be boiled down to just a few components:
- Land on a planet
- Talk to inhabitants over and over until they tell you everything they know
- Help out the inhabitants by doing tasks for them and summoning things
- Collect presents and finish all the planets objectives
- Move on to a new planet
- Rinse repeat
The extreme repetitive nature of the game ends up detracting from the gameplay and the relationships you are supposed to develop. The game eventually devolves into speaking to a character over and over until you get to the point, helping them out, and finishing that objective. Another issue is the ease of the game. There are no challenging puzzles to beat; no difficult mysteries to solve. It’s all very one dimensional overly simplified.
A Gamers Opinion
Doki-Doki Universe is a unique game. It attempts to depart from common genres and instead create something entirely different. A game in which the goal is to listen to characters, develop relationships, learn about morality, and maybe even a little about yourself is admirable. The problem is, as a game it’s just not that good. Perhaps if it were more challenging and less repetitive the game would have held my attention. Unfortunately for Doki-Doki Universe, the negatives far outweigh the positive message of the game.
- Unique game play
- Positive message
- Too easy
- Not nearly interesting enough to hold my attention for long
- Buggy – game stutters and runs slowly at times