Comedy is a tricky tight-rope to walk for any game. The biggest pitfall is putting humor on a higher pedestal than gameplay. Sure, a narrative driven game, silly or serious, can stand by the meat of its text alone. However, if that fails, and there’s nothing to keep you playing… Well, you just end up a cautionary tale. Artechoke Media’s Dojo Storm is one such example.
In Dojo Storm, you journey through a hick countryside looking for competent fighters to join your team, which you forcibly capture and train, fighting other martial arts teams across the land in the vein of Pokémon. In fact, the entire game is an homage to Pokémon, so the party awareness, rewards for diligent item-searching, condescending tutorials, etc. are brought over and lodged in from the get-go. These similarities, unfortunately, are where the nostalgic enjoyment of Dojo Storm ends for me.
The first major blow was dealt early on: The soundtrack. It’s bizarre and eclectic enough to engage you at first, but the short music loops become grating fast. As the game progresses, the music becomes the single biggest pain associated with playing, provided you have the sound on, of course.
Not much is lost if you choose to mute it, though, thanks to the jarring lack of sound effects. At least Pokémon understood the concepts of auditory feedback. Their original Gameboy RPGs added bleeps and bloops to your actions, garbled cries when a Pokémon entered a fight, and belted a stoutly triumphant fanfare when you gained a level. The pervasive silence of Dojo Storm keeps the game from being involving or satisfying at best, and at its worst lessens your understanding of what’s even happening. In that way it reminds me more of old rogue-likes such as NetHack, but without the complexity that game had to make up for it.
From the curiously glowing reviews on the Google Play store, I’ve gleamed that the jokes are hilarious if you’re into martial-arts culture, so perhaps I’m the wrong audience. To be fair, the flavor text and character portraits are consistently chuckle-worthy. It may have been my favorite part of the experience, really, which isn’t a great sign. I can only laugh at the use of acai berries as a cure-all and training flyers as Pokéballs for so long before I remember I’m not having a lot of fun listening to droning jingles and blindly mashing the A button.
Notable imbalance doesn’t help the already crippled experience either. You’ll find that newly-caught fighters are almost impossible to level up against the over-powered opponents, even of the same level, and your starting team’s weak attacks fail more often than not. That’s not even counting stun moves that cause almost all attacks to miss. It took me at least seven minutes to finish this one fight because I kept getting vicariously intoxicated by an MMA Fan taking shots in my vicinity (how does that work exactly?). On the flip side, your default character is so ludicrously powerful he can plow through everyone early on. He nearly eliminates the need for collecting other fighters at all, which strikes me as antithetical to the concept of Pokémon in the first place.
I appreciate the self-awareness Dojo Storm is liberal in expressing. It’s one of the many stifled yet noticeable upsides of the game, but even then this whole gambit seems all too familiar… My mind is returned to the same conclusion: This game was done much better before. I encourage everyone reading to go check out the free game Barkley’s Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, which Dojo Storm likely takes inspiration from, and see what this game did wrong. Not only did its basketball-themed contemporary do a better job at crafting a considered and enjoyable Android RPG, it did a better job being funny, even if you know nothing about basketball. Unless the gaming part of you is overwritten by a fighter’s chi, I would recommend spending five dollars on dried acai berries instead.
Is it Hardcore?
A parody RPG not funny or audible enough to overcome its dullness.