Review: Go! Go! Kokopolo (DSiWare)

Koko-crazy

DSiWare is, quite rightly, well known for providing a diverse range of quirky titles to give DSi owners small downloadable gaming fixes. We’ve seen a few ‘off the wall’ concepts on the service, and Go! Go! Kokopolo deserves its place in this category. The title says it all; this is a game that doesn’t want to be taken seriously.

The storyline is, as you may have guessed from the title, wacky and irrelevant. A bongo playing Sky Guardian called Jinbe is flying on a cloud when he accidentally drops one of these drums on Kokopolo’s head, as he chills out on his hammock. Being a wildcat, he reacts furiously and sets off on a quest of revenge, dragging his book-reading pal Tatsumo along for the ride. It’s silly fun, with the opening cutscene setting the standard for the quirky humour behind this game and its concept.

Once you get into the game, the main focus of attention is Story Mode, which follows Kokopolo’s quest for vengeance. Pleasingly, there are three save profiles available, and you choose your difficulty level, as well as whether you play as Kokopolo or his side-kick Tatsumo; they control the same way. This story mode boasts 80 levels, split up into 10 different worlds, so will keep most gamers busy for a good while, and not just because of the number of levels.

This game has longevity for one particular reason: the difficulty. Due to this we recommend that, before starting the story mode, all players take advantage of the Tutorial on offer. This is valuable for getting used to the controls and the concept, which is basically a glorified game of tag and chase. With an angled top-down viewpoint, each level is a maze with set paths to follow and various traps and obstacles to avoid. Movement is with the D-Pad, while the other key controls are B to jump, A to slash enemies and R to dash. The basic goal is to find enemies, slash them into a fit of rage, and run as fast as you can to the ‘Snap Snap Plant’ which will devour them and, if you don’t hurdle it correctly, you. You then tap the touch screen at the right moment for a treat to be spat out by the snap plant, which you can gather from the area where you found the enemy.

The concept is simple, but the challenge comes from the various pitfalls in the maps, as well as the speed at which Kokopolo and his enemies dash around. In Easy difficulty the dash is manageable, but the story mode is restricted to just 32 of the 80 levels. If you want to see the whole game you’ll need to top up your sugar and caffeine intake, harness the ninja gamer within, and play the Story Mode in Normal difficulty. The speed of the dashing is significantly higher in this mode, so it’s particularly challenging to navigate the map while being pursued, hopping over obstacles and switches as you go. Quick reflexes are an absolute must, and you’ll either relish the challenge or become frustrated and agitated beyond belief. It isn’t for the light-hearted, but the developers have graciously given unlimited lives, so the game is only over when you decide.

One accusation that can be levelled at the gameplay, in either difficulty setting, is that there is a lack of diversity and variety to the experience. Progress does bring up new enemy types, switches to stand on and some different puzzles, but the general actions are the same in every level. Learn the map, always visible on the touch screen, scratch enemies and run like crazy for the snap plant. This sense of repetition is countered by additional secrets and unlockables; capturing snap plant gifts before they hit the ground can unlock a door to a bonus level, while finding and copying the path of butterflies unlocks scratchcards. The scratchcards are a nice touch, with 40 to collect and each showing art-work and animations for different characters. Throw in a Time Attack mode for unlocked levels, with some exceptionally difficult target times, and there is a good amount of content for the premium price tag of 800 Points.

On the presentation front, Go! Go! Kokopolo is an impressive demonstration of what can be achieved within the limitations of DSiWare. The art direction is excellent, with a variety of environments full of vibrant colours, while the animations of the various characters are a pleasure to watch, exuding charm in every sprite. Music is cheery and inoffensive, though not particularly memorable.

Conclusion

Go! Go! Kokopolo is a demonstration of what can be good about DSiWare. It’s colourful and full of character, with challenging gameplay and stacks of content. The level of challenge is significant, however, so much so that a lot of gamers won’t see the whole game. It’s a shame that less-skilled players can’t enjoy all 80 levels in Easy mode, a harsh penalty considering the difficulty of Normal mode and the premium price tag. However, if you like the concept, have sharp reflexes and want a new challenge to occupy you for a good while to come, then this title comes highly recommended.