Every once in a while a game comes along that makes us wish Nintendo still made face buttons like those on the GameCube controller – particularly like the big, round, A button, always so inviting to bash. Dopamix is one of them.
This 600 yen eShop download is a rhythm game which promises to send you on quite the visual and audial voyage, or ‘Trip’ as the game’s modes are named.
The developers have kept things as simple as possible, placing emphasis on concentrating on the music (of which spans a fair few genres, from chiptune music to J-Pop), and getting into ‘the zone’, largely thanks to Dopamix’s visuals.
You essentially shoot bubble-like targets as soon as they zoom into your crosshair sight(s) in various rhythms to the music.
This simplicity is exactly why we wish we were playing it on an ol’ GameCube controller, though you can still use (and you’ll want to when the going gets tough) all of 3DS’s face buttons as well as the D-Pad.
This is all combined with visuals as mesmerising as Bit.Trip Beat thanks to an old-school visualiser-style background and 3D particle effects – soon enough your eyes fixated on those crosshairs, peripheral vision accounting for everything inbetween – as you try to keep track of it all.
So the fundamentals are sound, with three forms of feedback: an orange Dopa! and purple Dopa! – with the former requiring seriously accurate timing. There’s also a rainbow Dopa!, which is what’s nabbed in place of an orange one upon activating a rainbow powerup (more on this later).
But it’s when you begin progressing through the increasingly more difficult stages where Dopamix’s peels back some layers to reveal a few design flaws, mostly relating to the visual feedback of how those bubble-like targets appear.
It’s in the more complex, higher tempo songs, or in hard mode. The game begins throwing clusters of bubbles at you, and because they all zoom in on your numerous crosshairs, or emerge at random, split-second intervals it’s all a bit unpredictable and wishy-washy.
Learning the song should get you by in most cases, but that’ll lead you to question a lack of cohesion between the visual and audial feedback at these points, especially as it starts to impact how you play the game.
Similarly so when you find yourself activating a rainbow powerup (our Japanese skills aren’t good enough to fathom out its actual name) which will auto-hit any missed targets.
As such, obtaining a high score – or even going for a perfect score – can feel like a fuzzy endeavor as you try to figure out what exactly the game’s asking you to do.
Fortunately, there’s quite a bit of replay value in Dopamix. Obtaining an “A” rank in every level will unlock hard mode, and there’s Dopa Chain mode, an endless run to see how far you can get tackling increasingly difficult (and unpredictable) waves of targets. It’s fairly meaty for a 600 yen eShop offering.
Dopamix offers an interesting and engaging rhythm action experience, but this tends to falter whenever its strong blend of visual and audial feedback deteriorates. One to play in short bursts, then.