Dokuro isn't a game without its charm. The music clunks along pleasantly, and the sprites, all done in the style of chalk drawings, are a joy to behold. Unfortunately, pleasant music and pretty character graphics don't go especially far when the core of your gameplay is just a series of ten stage blocks about tricking a moron into not dying. For a puzzle game, Dokuro commits the cardinal sin of providing more frustration than satisfaction.
The game's setup is classic: The evil king has kidnapped a princess, with intent to marry her. Among the blacks, whites and grays of the high tower, she stands out in radiant gold, the wispy chalk lines of her form fading as they trail away from her. You're the skeletal minion who's decided to rescue her. However, she's unaware of your efforts. In fact, she seems unaware of literally everything that's not actively trying to murder her, as she bumbles into saw blades, open flames, and myriad other traps.
The princess will only stop for changes in elevation, and only shy away from monsters that are currently trying to murder her. You've got tools at your disposal, though, to make it slightly harder for the princess to kill herself. You have a potion that lets you change forms from skeletal minion to skeletal prince, trading your double jump for a stronger weapon and the ability to carry the princess around. You have white and red chalk, which can bind objects together or create fuses to transmit fire.
Though combining these abilities is necessary for success, there's still a lot of trial and error thanks to the princess forever shambling dumbly forward. A lot of your time in prince form is spent simply carrying her backwards so you can push boxes to mess around with the environment without getting her killed. With this in mind, the time limit on your transformation is pretty frustrating, forcing you to wait for prince form to restore its duration if you take too long towing the princess away from danger.
The game's puzzles are timed, offering some nominal replay value, but once you've worked out a puzzle once, going back for time trials pretty much just amounts to more frustrating princess-wrangling rather than any sort of engaging puzzle solving. It would be a different story if the princess had any abilities to bring to bear, but having her as a combination victim and obstacle makes her more of a drag on gameplay than anything else.
I have to say, though that Dokuro's presentation is fabulous. The entire game has a feeling of dark, childlike whimsy, thanks to the chalk aesthetics, the monster designs, and the music. The controls are great, making use of the Vita's touchscreen, and being as tight and responsive as one would hope. I'd like to say the frustration that I experienced was all my own fault, like one can with any good puzzle platformer, but unfortunately, the movement rules for the princess and her overall lack of utility ended up contributing as much as any mistakes that I made as I played. An uneven difficulty curve doesn't help, either. Some puzzles were completed in less than half a minute on my first run, while others were pains that required massive amounts of trial and effort until I found my way through. Having to repeat a puzzle from the beginning each time the princess saw fit to die hardly helped the situation.
It could be worth playing, depending on your stomach for that sort of thing. Princess-escorting puzzle games have sort of become a particular subgenre over the years, though, and Dokuro sits firmly at the bottom of the stack, thanks to the fact that no effort was put into making you like the princess, making her solely a problem you have to deal with. If you don't mind that, it could be worth picking up. Otherwise, steer far clear. There are too many excellent games coming out to spend the time and money here.