God simulators were a big deal back in the day, but it has to be said that in recent years they’ve not been as prevalent. That's not about to change with this game either, because Doshin the Giant is a GameCube game from the space year 2002 exclusively released everywhere except the US. As this rare and oft-forgotten game reaches its 6768 day anniversary since its European launch, how does it feel today?
Doshin the Giant is a bizarre game, we don’t think anyone would deny that. The basic premise is that you are the Love Giant called Doshin (named after the onomatopoeic sound of a giant’s footsteps) who appears one day in the sea around Barudo Island, and it’s your job as Doshin to do some stuff. Said stuff is primarily to take care of the island inhabitants and encourage them to build monuments in your honour.
You’ll likely want to take care of the villagers and fulfil their requests. This can be by raising or lowering the land, bringing trees to their building sites, removing an obstacle, or even just carrying them around. There’s almost no end of ways you can get on the good side of these tiny people, but you can also influence them through evil acts instead. Trampling villagers, lowering the land when villagers want it raised, throwing villagers' homes into the sea — it's all a rich tapestry of torment.
As you appease or torture the villagers they’ll award you with either love or hate, and by filling the circle around the screen with one or the other (but not both), you’ll grow in size. This seems trivial at first, but being bigger comes with a wealth of advantages: you can raise and lower greater areas of land, walk up steeper cliffs, move more quickly as your gait remains the same, and even pick up bigger and heavier objects that would otherwise cause Doshin to simply grunt in frustration.
It’s not all peaches and roses, though — being big makes you far more dangerous as well: trampling villagers accidentally is all too easy, resulting in justifiable amounts of hate; picking up the thing you want and not the thing next to it can be extremely taxing; and making minor adjustments to the land is all but unachievable. Regardless, at the end of an in-game day (which lasts a surprisingly generous thirty minutes) Doshin will sort of ‘stop living’ rather than die, and the next day you’ll arise anew in a fresh, ‘tiny’ body.
When it comes to ambulation, Doshin is a pedestrian character to say the least. If you want to travel between villages you’ll have to hoof it, and this can be uncomfortably slow, especially when you’re still small at the start of the day. After you’ve been making short work of almost any walk as a great whopping giant the day before, having to start again really puts a thorn in your side, so it’s important to get love or hate as soon as you can. There is another option though, and that ties into Mr Doshin’s rather villainous alter ego.
At any point you can pull the 'L' Button and transform into the Hate Giant Jashin, stripping you of any ability to lift things or help anyone, instead giving you the skills to decimate villages and villagers in no time flat. Jashin is generally faster than Doshin and even has wings allowing him to jump ludicrous heights, and cover mileage at a speed that would make our handsome Love Giant weep. Naturally all the destruction you cause will incur an incredible amount of hate, in turn allowing you to grow enormous in record time. Just like real life, it can be disappointingly profitable to be loathed.
Villagers even flee at the mere sight of Jashin, forcing you to balance between doing good and getting places at a decent rate. If you’re clever, you can jump and cover great distances as Jashin and then revert back to Doshin before the villagers can see you, but this is much more an art than a science.
But if the game’s so slow, why would you ever need to be quick? Well that’s because the island can be hit by various natural disasters, and it’s no secret that not only is Jashin better at getting to them in time to stop them, but he’s often simply much better at getting rid of them. Villagers will get the willies no doubt, but sometimes you need to ignore what they want and focus on what they need, which is to be not burnt alive.
This is all dependent on if you want to be good of course. Villagers will erect monuments to you if you treat them well, but they will also build those suckers up if you cause enough pain and suffering to them. Either method is completely viable, but the way the screen fills up with skulls and the tiny people run screaming from you (to the point that they will even hate Doshin on sight) definitely made us want to do the right thing. We found it was significantly more rewarding to be loved for hard, tiring work, than to be hated for the simpler act of destruction, even though the outcome is essentially identical.
The ultimate goal is to get every monument built for you (either through love or hate) by each colour village, and each colour combination of villagers. The best way to do this is to create new villages by bringing a male villager to a large enough empty landmass, and then bring a female villager along as well so that they can start building and… you know. But despite this overarching objective, the game encourages you to just do whatever the bleeding hell you like. Want to climb to the top of a mountain and slide down on your bum? Do it. Want to sink the entire island into the sea allowing the fish to take over? No one’s going to stop you.
You’re a giant, and this is a toybox for you to do whatever you so desire. There’s joy to be found in creating new civilisations, destroying them, creating rude shapes in the landmass, the whole kazoo. The terraforming alone is hugely entertaining and impressive given the game’s age, and doubly so when you consider that this is a remake of a 64DD game.
That’s not to say Doshin the Giant isn’t without its flaws: oftentimes villagers will ask you to raise the land to silly heights because they want a cliff view or something, or if the tide pokes through the floor they’ll freak out for four seconds, you’ll raise the land to stop it happening again, and then they’ll demand you lower it again so they can be ankle-deep and complain once more.
The game also relies fairly heavily on you creating your own fun and objectives; we had no issue with this as that’s our kind of game, but we can see it appearing as though there’s not much to do for many players. It’s also really bizarre how the 'X' Button raises the land whilst the 'Y' Button lowers it, despite the 'Y' Button being higher up than the 'X' Button on the GameCube controller.
Visually it’s quite nice for a GameCube game, though nothing to write home about. Villagers are appropriately blocky and turn into 2D sprites as soon as they’re too far away to smell Doshin’s salty ocean stank, but the limitations are balanced out by rock-solid performance, never once dropping below 60fps in our playthrough. There's also a charm to everything that helps elevate it beyond just looking 'old'. A special mention should also go to the superb soundtrack, with twisted, ethereal melodies and African-inspired drumbeats; it’s just a shame that it isn’t used more often when playing.
Doshin the Giant is a wholly unique and pleasingly confusing experience. Balancing working hard and being loved alongside doing things quickly but being hated — as well as random natural disasters — allows for a degree of tactics in an otherwise super chilled-out game. Villagers can have unreasonable demands that often contradict their neighbour's, who is standing two metres away, but that’s the price you pay for having such heavy responsibilities. It’s showing some signs of age in its visuals, but the terraforming mechanics alone are still impressively modern, and make Doshin the Giant a great game to play even today.