Hard-Hat Domo Review
Posted by Philip J Reed
Domo needs his hard-hat because of all the falling quality
With five Domo games to choose from this week, it's more or less a given that some are going to be markedly better than others. That's okay: we like it when games are better than others, and we're sure you do, too. Of course, the flipside of this implication is that some are going to be markedly worse. Pro-Putt Domo represents the former; Hard-Hat Domo represents the grim alternative.
Hard-Hat Domo is a very simple game, and as such, there's not much to say in terms of story or even gameplay. Domo needs to climb to the top of a half-built structural frame for what will soon be a skyscraper, and it's up to you to help him place ladders and throw paint around. Fun!
Domo needs to match the bottom color of his ladder to the color of the platform he is standing on, and the top color to the color of the platform he means to climb to. You can get away with incorrectly matching the top color (though the timer will penalize you), but the bottom color must match for Domo to place his ladder at all.
To aid you in your climb, buckets of paint are scattered around each level, and you can use them to repaint the section you are standing on. Well, "aid" isn't the right word, as the button that sets a ladder is the same button that picks up a paint can, so they're just as likely to be sitting exactly where they will cause you the greatest inconvenience, especially in later levels. Yes, you can pick up and move the paint can first, but in the time it takes to do that, you might as well just set the ladder in the wrong place and take the time penalty. In fact, it's often wiser to take the time penalty as Domo controls so stiffly and awkwardly that you're bound to lose at least as much time shuffling paint cans all around and returning to where you wanted to place the ladder in the first place. As such, any hope for "strategy" goes right out the window; you're penalized for thinking before you act. Hooray.
When you start the game, you can only play Apprentice mode. Completing this level successfully (which you will do easily, unless you fall asleep during play or drop your DSi in the toilet) unlocks Journeyman mode. This requires Domo to climb to greater heights, and tosses you multicolored platforms more frequently. Complete this and you'll get Foreman mode, and then Legend mode, both of which unfold predictably enough under the same patterns.
Since the game scrolls upward, it does make pretty good use of the dual-screen format of the DSi. Other Domo games tend to feature a static image or useless map on the top screen, but in the case of Hard-Hat, you can see the next few levels you'll be scaling. This doesn't allow you to plan ahead, really, as you have no control over which color ladders you will have to place, nor can you see the ladders in advance, but at least both screens are getting some use.
As mentioned before, Domo controls very stiffly, and he might be missing a few frames of animation as he glides rather than walks. The jumping is also awkward: his leaps are extremely fast, and his vertical distance is awkwardly greater than his horizontal. In itself that isn't an issue, but it does turn a simple video-game concept like "jumping" into something bizarrely unintuitive.
Also, if you manage to get stranded on a level by virtue of having (for example) a yellow ladder to place on a red platform, you will need to pick up paint can after paint can, using them and waiting for them to respawn until you get a yellow one that allows you to continue. Not only is this a waste of time, but it quickly becomes tedious. Standing around waiting for new paint cans to appear while your timer runs down doesn't make for much of a game, especially when the reward for your patience is the opportunity to ascend to the next platform and do it again.
The game offers about an hour of content, and, since all four modes play identically, that's actually a generous estimate. Once the levels are complete there's no real reason to return to the game. You can always try to beat your previous score, but unlike Pyoro, for example, poor Domo's adventure is a joyless chore. If you really enjoy the time you spend with Hard-Hat Domo, you might pick it up again, but that's not a risk we'd advise you to take.
With its repetitive, unvarying gameplay, stiff controls and lack of replay value, Hard-Hat Domo is difficult to recommend. Yes it's only 200 points, but there are better games you can buy for 200 points. Heck, there are better Domo games you can buy for 200 points.
Hard-Hat Domo is for enthusiasts only. Enthusiasts of what? We'd rather not know.