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Dogurai Review splash screen

Dogurai for PS4 – Game Boy aesthetics in a tough platformer

If Mega Man and Ninja Gaiden had a pet together… it would be Dogurai on PS4, Steam, and Switch

Looking for a retro-style platforming game that is reminiscent of old Gameboy boy games? Dogurai is here to slice through the competition.

The game has eight stages with countless enemies to hack and slash you way through. Dogurai was developed and published by Hungry Bear Games for PC and published by QUByte Interactive for the PS4. It features 2 dog samurai, Dogurai if you will, with varying methods of attack.

Story

I had to actually refer to Steam to glean the story. As far as I know, the PS4 version of the game does not feature a cinematic/cutscene that shows the story.

The game takes place in a dystopian future. Living law enforcement and the military personnel were replaced by robots and machines. One day, the creator of these robots decides to flip the switch and take over the world… As creators of robots tend to do…

Bones, a retired dogurai from the Special Forces, decides to fight against the robot menace by himself.

Bones is about to take a bite out of crime

The game plays a bit like a cross between Mega Man and Ninja Gaiden. It plays like Mega Man in that you select a stage from a variety of different stages. Each stage has a robot leader at the end that has its own set of skills/abilities. You can play them in any order you would like. Once you tackle 4 stages, you get introduced to some of the final stages that contain more intense platforming aspects and difficult bosses. It reminiscent like Ninja Gaiden in terms of its hack and slash platforming.

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Does it live up to the mind-numbing difficulty of its predecessors or does it provide a new unique experience?

Some of the settings include: the city, fighting in urban sewers, military facilities, factories and even in sky-high structures. Each level has its own gimmick/challenges that were inspired from platforming games of yesteryear. For instance, one level has you riding a motorcycle through a desert while another has a lava chase sequence.

Dogu-riding off into the sunset!

Gameplay -Bones

As stated previously, this game is a 2D platformer that heavily features hack and slash elements. Bones walks at a brisk pace (can’t really run), but can also slide and can double jump to gain higher ground. The slide is incredibly useful for dodging aerial attacks and getting under bosses as they jump around. It’s also useful to move slightly faster than just walking.

His sword skills are minimal at best. You can swing your sword while jumping and pull off a three-swing combo on the ground. That’s about it. You can also slice through most projectiles that are fired by enemies.

Most enemies Bones encounters goes down in 1 hit, with the exception of heavy enemies. Heavy enemies require you to perform some Quick Time Events (QTEs). Bones can attack an enemy up to five times depending on how many QTEs you successfully complete. There are also QTEs that occur during boss fights. Occasionally the robot leader gets winded… We’ll just say he needs to recharge… and you have a chance to pull off a five hit combo.

Simple QTEs make dealing with these big guys simple

Throughout the game, you can find hidden areas in each stage. Most contain health pickups or lives, but there are some that contain chatty NPCs or floppy disks. There’s no explanation on what the floppy disks do during normal gameplay. It’s not until you get to the last stage that you find out you need them to save your companion, Rider. Collect all 4, and Rider is released from captivity. Collect anything less than 4, and you have to fight an evil version of your companion. Think Mega Man X2, if you don’t get all of Zero’s parts. If you collect all 4 floppy disks and beat the game, you can choose Rider as a playable character when you start a new game.

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Gameplay – Rider

Rider is Bones’ companion that specializes in throwing shurikens. The best part of this, Rider can throw them in 3 directions: Straight forward, diagonally up, and diagonally down. You can snipe enemies and the bosses from a distance. This makes the game incredibly easy. The game itself doesn’t change depending on which Dogurai you choose, aside from which Dogurai is trapped in the final stage.

Gameplay – Hard Mode

The only difference between Normal Mode and Hard Mode is: you start with a finite number of lives, 9 to be exact. Odd choice given they’re dogs, but I digress. Lives are scattered throughout the levels so you never truly have to worry about losing them all. Plus, if you play as Rider, you can snipe enemies from far away so things are even easier. Just take your time.

Critique

The controls are very fluid. The game looks like a Gameboy game but plays like a 2D platformer from the modern-era. I never found myself missing platforms due to shoddy controls or misleading level design, like old Gameboy platformers. The controls are smooth and I was always able to land a jump, with the exception of moving platforms. Those you have to time just right.

One complaint I have is the amount of enemies that pop up from off screen. If you’re trying to make a jump to a platform that is just off screen, 9 times out of 10 an enemy will pop out to hit you. Seems like a cheap hit and was added with the only purpose of prolonging gameplay given that you typically fall into a pit. Speaking of getting hit, Hungry Bear Games decided to add the old trope: character knockback. It’s not very fun for jumping over large gaps… Or in general.

The bosses have a health meter similar Mega Man Robot Masters. Every hit takes out 1 sliver of health. If there’s a way to take a larger chunk of health off, I never found it. This doesn’t necessarily ruin the experience by any means, but it does get frustrating when the enemy can take a quarter of your health with 1-2 hits.

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The music is great. Every stage has a memorable theme that I found myself humming after a few retries (I died a lot at first). If you’re a fan of 8-bit-sounding music, you’ll love this. Even my 4 year old was rocking out to it.

As I mentioned up above, Hard Mode is just Normal Mode without infinite lives and it basically becomes easy mode with Rider. Honestly, I never played as Bones again after I unlocked Rider. Bones just isn’t as versatile.

The game states this is a feature so I need to mention it here. Bones has a boopable snooter. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Verdict

The game definitely has solid controls but the amount of enemies coming at you is a bit out of hand at times. Later levels really put those controls to the test with difficult jumps and maneuvers. To add to the frustration, there are enemies everywhere. Some of the later jumps are so frustrating that I wanted to sling my controller across the room.

Playing through the game with a set amount of lives made me realize something… I don’t miss games from yesteryear. I remember being frustrated back then and I definitely got frustrated now. It makes going for the achievements almost not really worth it. I say almost because the game is still fun despite the constant barrage of enemies.

As I mentioned before, there is stage with a lava chase scene. The lava chase is fine, you can outrun it pretty quickly, but there are enemies everywhere. It would be one thing if you were on solid ground but half the time you’re jumping over lava. Gets old quick.

Then there is the stage with pistons that crush you. Easy enough to time, but then you have to worry about the direction of conveyor belts on the ground. Great, I landed the jump but couldn’t note the direction of the conveyor belt quick enough so I got crushed. There is at least one of these death trap sections per stage. Seems like the developer’s way of artificially lengthening the gameplay and I don’t like it.

Hot stuff coming through!

Each level has a unique color scheme to distinguish one from another. The changing colors are cool at first, but I had trouble distinguishing Bones and some enemies from the background. This was especially true in the Volcano stage. Getting hit is inevitable in this situation and really takes some of the enjoyment out of the game.

You can change the color scheme in the options menu, but it is hard going to one color for all of the levels when the colors help distinguish the different levels. Red is volcano, brown is desert, and so on.

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Bosses are very tough when playing as Bones but their patterns are, mostly, easy to recognize. The fact that they take so much health from you but you are only able to take 1 bar of health from them teeters on unfair at times. Especially when there are only certain times you can hit the enemies anyway.

When you play as Rider, the bosses are too easy. Maybe I just got used to the patterns, but being able to throwing shurikens from the other side of the stage was also very helpful.

Still, the game is enjoyable, albeit short. It’s a good game for those that can’t devote a lot of time to longer titles and I enjoyed it for what it was. If you want to play through in one sitting, it is certainly possible to do so.

Despite the level of frustration, I did find myself going back for the achievements. I definitely enjoyed the game, and even more so when I unlocked Rider. It’s a fun title and, if you enjoy hard platformers from days passed, you’ll enjoy this too.

I give Dogurai 3.5 boopable snooters out of 5.

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