First Impressions: Dopamix
Posted by Jeremy Thain
Is this Japan-only eShop release going to be music to your ears?
As games get more complicated, with motion controls and complex button layouts, is it still possible to have fun while playing a game using only one button? With the Japan-exclusive eShop title Dopamix (made by G-mode, the current owners of the Data East back catalogue, which includes Burgertime and Tumblepop, as well as Lock'N Chase for the Game Boy), players will get to find out just how fun a game can be using only the well-timed presses of a single button. We've gone hands-on with this import download to see if it's worth a look for western players.
The concept is simple enough: start a song and a glittery, colourful display plays out on the screen. In the centre of the 3D screen is a cross-hair. As flashing bubbles called Puchi (the Japanese version of the French word 'Petit') fly across the screen, some of them enter into the cross-hair. It is up to the player to press the action button at the correct time, along with the rhythm of the song and the timing of the coloured Puchi entering the cross-hair, in order to get points and aim for a high ranking in the stage.
Since the game uses all original music, players can't rely on professional artists being involved and lending their familiar and popular tunes to the release. This can always be a bit of a gamble, but luckily most of the music used in this title is rather catchy, with pumping techno beats, fun pop songs, and the occasional R&B influenced tune. There are even several vocal tracks among the songs available to play along with in the game, making it quite a varied aural experience. The creators have made sure that no two tracks sound the same, and as a result, each stage has a unique flavour to it.
Even though there is only one button to press in the game, the designers sometimes throw in a few new challenges, such as multiple cross-hairs (one R&B dubstep-inspired vocal track had at one point 8 cross-hairs on-screen), moving cross-hairs, and snake-like Puchi that force the player to hold down the action button until just the right moment - releasing the button too soon or too late loses you the point.
Of course, high scores really are the meat of any game like this, and players will want to get A ranks in all the stages. This may be a lot harder than it seems at first, as imperfect timing results in a lesser score for the target, and fully missing the target results in a penalty, complete with a little heartbreak icon on the screen. Five penalties and its game over, so you must have very good timing and memory of the track in order to reach the higher scores.
The other main point, besides the catchy music, is the graphics. Set to a black background, the flashing lights and colours resemble a techno club backdrop, and fans of that type of music (or simply those that enjoy it for the purpose of music games) will definitely enjoy what is on display here. The 3D effect is also something to praise, as it is used better here than in many full-price retail games. The splashes of colour that accompany a perfectly timed hit appear to actually pop out of the screen, and multiple hits in a row produce bursts of colour that look as if they have been thrown at the player.
It wouldn't be a music game without different modes of play, and Dopamix offers two. One is the normal mode, called Dopatrip. The other is Dopachain, which is essentially an "endless" mode that focuses on the player getting a long chain of successive hits. The difficulty here ramps up very quickly, and after only three penalties, it's game over.
With just 12 songs available, the game may seem a bit short compared to many retail rhythm music games, but for a budget title on the 3DS eShop (and one that is cheaper than many other titles currently available), Dopamix is definitely worth its price. Since there is not a lot of Japanese text and dialogue in the game, it wouldn't be too far-fetched for this one to be made available in other regions eventually. Dopamix is, despite its length, a fun little title with catchy music and beautiful graphics that will dazzle the player in the short bursts.
For the full experience, it is recommended that you play the game with headphones on, turn the lights down, and get immersed in the rhythm of the songs. If you're lucky enough to own a Japanese 3DS, this is well worth a look. If you don't, then keep those fingers crossed for a global release.