With low-budget video games developed by smaller studios becoming increasingly successful (in part due to their compatibility with more commonly owned devices), a game called Doki-Doki Universe developed by a small studio called Human Nature for Sony’s trifecta of consoles (PlayStation 3, 4 and Vita) has brought the fresh vibe of many of these games to a major set of consoles. The hierarchy of the video game world has clearly been broken up by the rise of indie developers and low-cost games with downloadable content, and the attention now is on young studios with fresh ideas. Doki-Doki Universe focuses on themes not commonly attributed to stereotypical video games, such as human connection and psychology, exploration, and learning. The LA Times’s Hero Complex noted that playing through the game feels like “an elaborate personality test.”
In a nod to family-friendly space exploration properties like Wall-E and The Little Prince, you play as a forlorn robot named QT3 whose family has left him on his junk-pile planet for 32 years. A green creature called Alien Jeff finds QT3 and his red balloon friend and encourages them to explore the planets around him and “learn about humanity.” The game’s sense of creativity and whimsy pleasantly surprised many reviewers, with many quests involving the creation of “Summonables” that can range from cute animals to delicious meals to random objects like burning buildings. The graphics, which resemble a child’s drawing, cement the focus on the fantasy world as just that, rather than something realistic.
Doki-Doki Universe joins a roster of other games tackling story and psychology instead of fancy graphics and well-known characters. The Hero Complex article also highlighted several other similar releases this year that “alternately touched on fear of abandonment and sexual confusion (‘Gone Home‘), the absurdity of predictable, daily workday routines (‘The Stanley Parable‘) and sarcastically probed the depths of greed (‘The Cave’).” In Doki-Doki Universe, quests tackle also tackle more serious human themes like “distrust, greed, and even our propensity to pollute the environment,” they found. Reviewers over at IGN, however, noted that the quests got a bit repetitive. Though Doki-Doki Universe’s team did include an alumnus of Sega’s “Toejam & Earl,” perhaps these small studios, one day, will cement their influence by grabbing some of the developers from the larger studios.
Image: Hero Complex