Doki Doki Universe is the ultimate change of pace. Peering through a midst of next-gen hype, massive AAA titles and a generation accustomed to killing for achievement, HumaNature’s charming adventure attempts to test your compassion whilst teaching you a little about yourself at the same time.
Game: Doki Doki Universe
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
QT3 is a robot, sadly coming to the end of his tenure. The heart strings are already torn from their binds during the introduction when the quirky mechanical being is abandoned on a planet by his owners and left to stand for decades with the false notion that they’ll be returning for him soon. Eventually he’s sort after to be recalled and scrapped, but there’s hope; proving he holds some humanity will avoid this dire fate and as QT3 you’ll set out to explore the universe with the task of doing just that.
Your transport is, of course, a flying pig; a mere hint of an overriding quirkiness that’s apparent not only in narrative but also in presentation. As if hand drawn by a 10 year old, the game instantly endears you to it before a button is even pressed. You’ll then discover locations where humans are pets to animals, or host to giant sea creatures with a passion for dancing – it’s a perfect mix of heart-warming and bizarre, if there is such a thing, that is.
Proving your humanity on these different planets often involve helping the local eccentrics fix a dilemma or solve a puzzle, some by manifesting a number of objects that QT3 has in his inventory. The correct items are deduced by the not particularly subtle clues in the surroundings; a character who has an affinity for sunshine might like you to make a rainbow, for instance. Completing tasks equals more items, then more items means more tasks available to complete, and so on. Completing the quests on each planet teaches you something about humanity, and as a result, takes you one step further away from becoming scrap metal. Unfortunately, the entire game has a genuine lack of difficulty and only ever really maintains a steady ten in a naught to sixty race, such is its apathetic nature.
What Doki Doki Universe lacks in challenge, it makes up for in imagination. Items to complete tasks are not always something particular, there may be several solutions. With the inventory, think a mix of Scribblenauts and a point and click adventure game and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’re dealing with in regards to the approach to puzzle solving. The locations and the scenarios you’re placed in are ultimately intriguing enough to stop things getting too humdrum, too. Unfortunately, the gameplay itself does teeter on the edge of losing focus, and as repetition rears it’s head some might struggle to plough through the same tasks over and over, different local or not.
As I mentioned earlier, Doki Doki Universe doesn’t only attempt to get you helping others, but also wants you to learn a little about yourself. In between planets you can visit asteroids which offer small personally tests involving multiple choice images and questions. Once you’ve answered everything you’ll be given an assessment of your personality. Whilst the idea will appeal to almost everyone, it’s not amazingly executed. I found some of the answers questionable compared to how others would probably describe me, however it may be different for every user, just don’t expect the answers to be the life changing revelation you’ve been waiting for – it is just a game afterall.
That aside, the way the results are accumulated throughout the entire experience is quite ingenious and explained well by your aptly titled humanity assessor, Dr. Therapist. Dialogue with NPCs and results from personality tests are pooled together and are filtered back to you in insightful explanations of why the game thinks the things it does about your personality. Even if you don’t agree with the assessment of yourself and your decision making, the Doctor explains things well enough to help you understand its choices, which is ultimately the payout.
Available as a cross-buy game for PS Vita, PS3 and PS4, Doki Doki Universe is a nice change up from the norm, offering something that’s full of imagination and gives you some interesting insights of yourself, regardless of whether you agree or not. What might hold it back a little is the lack of challenge, and as a result attentions will waver as the game progresses and repetition increases. If you’re looking for something utterly charming and a little different from what you currently own, then Doki Doki Universe is almost certainly worth looking into. If nothing else, it’ll question you as much as you’ll question it – and that’s something not every game achieves.