Also On: PS3
Developer: HumaNature Studios
I'm at a loss as to what there is to say about Doki-Doki Universe. As you can probably tell from the trailer, it is a weird, weird game. I mean, it's a little less odd than that trailer would imply, but on the strangeness spectrum — where, say, Call of Duty is at one end, and something like the Katamari series is at the other — it's most definitely on the latter side.
First, though, a rough overview of what Doki-Doki Universe actually is, since it may not be entirely clear from the info HumaNature Studios has released to date, and it's not something that can be conveyed in just a few words. Basically, you're playing as a robot (nicknamed QT3) abandoned by its owner-family, and aliens have decreed that unless you can prove your humanity, you and all the other robots in your particular line will be destroyed. To do this, you have to travel from planet to planet, solving various problems and taking psychological tests.
Or something like that. You're also in love with a balloon named Balloon, you solve problems by collecting sticker-like items that come to life, and you ride around the galaxy on a…dog (I think?). Oh, and you use the back touchpad to greet your friends in the various ways –bow, hug, handshake, etc. — that they prefer.
In other words, it's not really a game that can be easily classified (or, for that matter, described). There are hints of Little Big Planet with the sticker-triggers, and the problem-solving aspect clearly has its roots in the adventure genre, but to simply call it an adventure game misses the point. Adding in the psychological testing to call it an adventure-psych test hybrid kind of does the trick, but I'm pretty sure that such a genre doesn't exist.
So Doki-Doki Universe is basically exists as a genre unto itself. You know what, though? That's not a bad thing — not when it's done as perfectly as it is here. The game tells its story with so much cuteness and warmth and heart that it's impossible to avoid getting drawn into its rhythms. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's the most adorable game on the Vita — not with Tearaway so fresh in my memory — but I would say that it's certainly right up there.
In fact, I'd even go so far as to say it's up there in the game of the year conversation, too. Doki-Doki Universe offers an incomparable experience that takes full advantage of every feature the Vita has to offer, and it does so in a way that never feels gimmicky or stupid. That's an impressive accomplishment, and it makes it easy to say the game is well worth your time and money.