Some know him as that brown thing who’s on T-shirts in the dark corners of HMV that nobody visits. Others know him as Domo-kun, the official mascot of Japan’s NHK television station. We discovered this for ourselves first-hand when visiting NHK in Tokyo around five years ago. What were we doing there? Obviously not becoming rich and famous.
Domo the Journey unofficially teleports us back to the ‘90s for some simple platforming action. The opening woodland level has been designed to break you in gently. There’s nothing too challenging on the road ahead – just a few bottomless pits with moving platforms above them and enemies that continuously walk from left to right. It’s like the last 20 years of gaming never happened.
It’s also during the first couple of levels that two things come apparent. We found the virtual d-pad controls to be a little too small for our thumbs, leading to some unnecessary deaths. We’d like to point out here that our thumbs are in no way deformed. They are, by all accounts, average.
The other thing that we noticed is that, well, it’s not exactly a good looking game. Backdrops lay motionless and quite often it’s only Domo himself on screen that’s animated. There’s some schizophrenia going on with the art-direction too. The platforming levels feature chunky, brightly coloured vistas while the boss battles are set in rendered environments. There’s very little flare throughout and neat little touches are seldom seen.
As soon as the second level the difficulty level ramps up astronomically. This set of levels are set in a sawmill, full of whirling blades and conveyor belts. Domo is armed with a camera that’s used to send enemies hurtling off the screen and a guitar for close range attacks, but both of these are in short supply. This seems to be a design choice made on purpose. Even though it’s a premium app (currently £1.49) there’s the chance to buy more lives and weapons via in-app transactions. The first time we visited the store to have a browse we were prompted to confirm purchases of £1.99 add-on packs that – unless we’re mistaken – we hadn’t even tapped on. The camera does recharge after use, but in a game that’s heavy on enemy encounters, waiting for it to do so is impractical.
Stick with Domo the Journey and the levels do become a little more interesting, including mine cart and snowmobile stages. Each level also has three gold stars to go for, based on the amount of items collected. It’s certainly a challenging game but mostly for all the wrong reasons. If the iffy controls don’t kill you, the poor collision detection will.
To be frank, the big brown fellow deserves better.
iTunes App Store: £1.49