I like cute, quirky handdrawn visuals as much as the next underdeveloped manchild, but damn – there’s something almost aggressively boring about Doki Doki Universe. The premise is cute – you play as hapless robot QT3 trying to become more human, which would be way more awesome if you were violently gutting innocent meatbags to add another patch to your skin coat. You achieve this by traveling across a bunch of different planets and becoming the universe’s most prolific people pleaser. It’s like Christmas Simulator 2013 without the turkey. Or anything even vaguely resembling joy and merriness.
The thing is about kooky hand-drawn visuals is that they only really work if the gameplay behind them is compelling, whether simple or complex. If the gameplay just involves walking from one spot to another for hours on end, things start to get infuriating. Simplistic visuals just start to make you irrationally angry to the point where a premise that once seemed twee and attractive now seems slightly mocking, with a sort of spiky blandness that I can only really equate to being in a committed relationship in your twenties. But before this review turns into a diatribe of bitterness, I’m going to move on to the scarce few things I enjoyed about Doki Doki Universe.
Despite my obvious gripes with the game’s low-tech visuals, which are loaded with a horrible, in your face cuteness and a diabetes-inducing level of saccharine, it does have its moments. The character design (well, I say design, everything looks like it was scratched out in a notebook once and then added to the level) is charming and everything looks really nice. It’s just a shame that the absolute bare minimum of interactive gameplay has been applied. Walk. Talk. Move on. Repeat a hundred million times. The entire game feels like one big side activity. I kept playing under some delusion that the game must be drip-feeding me features and I’d get to some delicious fudge core as many indie games do – but there’s no such luck.
To progress, you need to collect presents, which you can then give to specific characters to appease them (Clearly this game takes place in some consumerist democratic nightmare). Some of these presents will be in the possession of other characters, and to claim them, you either need to make them really happy by learning what gestures they like or piss them off as much as possible. The fact that part of QT3’s journey to becoming more human is being a titanic asshole and taking other people’s stuff is one of the game’s better points. As much as the social aspect of the game can be amusing to watch, it’s just too samey.
There are so many worthwhile things you could do instead of playing Doki Doki Universe. You could bake a cake. You could annoy your actual friends until they give you stuff to make you go away. You could slap David Cameron in the face. You could stick your head in the bloody freezer for half an hour and have more fun.
Repetitive, inane gameplay in a cutesy hand-drawn wrapper. If it has any redeeming features, I’m too cynical and too downright bored of playing it to have picked up on them.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.