Boing! Docomodake DS
For: Nintendo DS
From: AQ Interactive/Ignition Entertainment
ESRB Rating: Everyone
By Billy O'Keefe
You may not know it just to look at it, and you may never have known if nobody told you, but "Boing! Docomodake DS" is a commercial mascot tie-in game — the latest in a sometimes-brutal genre that includes the wretched likes of "Yaris" and "Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings."
In this case, the star of the show is Docomodake, who is to Japan's dominant mobile phone provider what the Kool-Aid man is to Kool-Aid.
Fortunately, all that amounts to nothing more than trivia. Docomodake is a delightful character, regardless of affiliation. More importantly, "Boing" is a genuinely great game _ an inspired platformer/puzzler hybrid that uses the full might of the Nintendo DS' capabilities in completely new ways.
At first glance, Papa Docomodake is a your typical mushroom with a face, able to walk, dash and jump. But the levels in "Boing" pose challenges beyond his base capabilities, and as such, Papa has to split off into multiple miniature Docomodakes who can, among other things, squeeze into tighter spaces and stand atop one another to form a ladder.
"Boing" keeps the controls practical: The buttons handle Papa Docomodake, while the stylus is used to drag the miniatures, which also can be rolled into balls and used to knock enemies out of the sky or clear other obstacles. You can rebuild and split Papa Docomodake at will, which comes in handy when activating certain platforms that require a specific amount of weight to operate properly.
This, pretty much, is how "Boing's" levels work, and like a good platformer, the game keeps the controls at this level while introducing new obstacles and doohickeys to overcome and understand as you progress. The primary goal is to reach the end of each level, but ambitious players also can tackle the scoring system, which grades you on your ability to collect treasure, keep all mini Docomodakes healthy and reach the goal as quickly as possible. The game's primary challenge isn't terribly taxing, but acing the latter test definitely is.
An interest in replaying levels to perfection is pretty crucial to the long-term value of "Boing," which proves to be a pretty brisk experience if you simply burn through every level once and never look back.
Then again, the game checks in at a very impulse purchase-friendly $20, and you easily could recoup that investment after only a few hours in Docomodake's world. "Boing" is a visual charmer, and its devotion to doing things only a DS platformer can do produces one of the most endearing efforts since "Kirby Canvas Curse" blew everybody away four years ago.
(c) 2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.