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Don Doko Don

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Released: 1989

Genre: Platformer

Format reviewed: Arcade

Publisher: Taito

Developer: Taito

Submitted by: Stephen Westwood

What is it about princesses and getting kidnapped by dragons?  What is the dragon going to do with them once they get them anyway?  Actually I don’t want to think about that, I’d rather get on with the job of rescuing her, as usual.  What shall I be this time?  Barbarian with sword and shield?  Military soldier with flame throwing super gun?  Nope.  I think this time I will be a gnome with a little hammer, called Bob, and I’ll bring my brother Jim along to help.

This is one of those cute one screen at a time games that owe a lot to Bubble Bobble’s legacy, but as it is by the same makers, Taito, I will let them off.  Actually if it was as good as this I’d let them off anyway, as I love this kind of game and this is a great example.  Not one I ever came across in the arcade, and I doubt many, if any machines made it over to the UK, but my discovery came on the excellent ‘Taito Legends 2’ compilation.

You start off in the colourful nature inspired world with a back drop of trees and some nasty mushroom critters to get rid of.  Hitting a baddie with your hammer squishes them so that you are then able to pick them up, press fire again and you will throw them which turns them into fruit that will give you more points when picked up.  You can lift more than one squished enemy at a time, though they get heavy and when they wiggle let them go or you’ll be for it.  Throwing the wounded at the living, will kill that baddie too.  It’s fairly simple stuff, but great fun, especially in co-op play which is usually with my four year old son who absolutely loves this game!

Each world is ten screens long with a boss battle at the end.  The only way to kill the boss is to throw the enemies it spawns back at it.  My favourite is the giant pumpkin in the first level.  None of them are impossible and in fact although the game gets harder as it goes on there are no ‘stumping’ moments, just more of the same, yet requiring more and more skill to survive.  There is quite a lot of variation between the five worlds which are all loosely themed and have their own catchy jolly tune.  Each screen adds an extra idea in the mix with the odd power up, blocks to smash or push, and new enemies in each.  Sometimes the screen is full of foes especially when the damn kings keep throwing out endless ‘Alice in Wonderland’ style walking playing cards.  And then there’s those caterpillars that suck you in with their long tongues.  Yep, it can get pretty frustrating, but isn’t that part of the key to ‘addictiveness’? Survive as long as you can on one credit to get your score up, then die and its back to zero to challenge you again… just as it should be.

I’ve saved the princess a couple of times and she just moans about the king being missing.  No pleasing some people eh?