“In short, it’s almost as if someone took the 16 bit characters from Risk of Rain, and dropped them in a 4 way platform fighter, meets speed dating.”
My initial experience with Domiverse began as both very frustrating and confusing. That being said, it only took me a minute or two of trial and error to quickly find myself overcome with interest towards a 16 bit party brawler, where a match lasts a total of 5-30 seconds (on average).
The game features a colorful cast of various humanoids, robots, and an alien sausage prince, who not only bellows lasers from his mouth, but also vaults himself across the map using only the propulsion of his flatulence. Needless to say, Domiverse offers an array of choice characters to dominate with, 8 of which are available from the beginning (4 unlockable); each including their own unique backstory (discoverable through Arcade Mode completion), as well as their own respective homeworlds, portrayed in the scenery of the various maps.
If you’re someone who enjoys fast paced, short lived action thrills; then this frenzy-fest was in fact created for you. Though this dynamic may sound quirky in concept, it’s delivery in game soon reveals itself to be both extremely digestible and equally exciting.
The story begins with a dying, old king who never sired an heir. Before passing, he transfers all his life force into forging a crown, (as he’s revealed to be a blacksmith king). Following the orders of his last wills, his subjects organized a tournament to determine the strongest warrior in the universe, and ultimately who is the rightful successor to the crown. This is vividly depicted in the opening cinematic of the game, as well as in the first of 9 unlockable graphic novels, entitled “Origins”. Each of these comics dons a striking cover page, displaying the character in detail, whose backstory it delves into. Every comic is unlocked by completing Arcade Mode with the respective character.
Gameplay offers 3 main modes, entailing Battle, Arcade and Challenge Mode. Players can compete through 3 different objectives (Survivor, Ace Hunter, and King [of the Hill]) in 1 hit kill combat, quite similar to Deathmatch in Super Smash Bros. Survivor mode reflects this inspiration more than any other objective; even including a feature where a black hole will appear, sent to extinguish any players staying inactive for too long, not unlike the Bomb-ombs thrown when you stand around in SSB Deathmatch.
King, perhaps the most enjoyable of objectives, is a point based game, where your goal is to stay inside of a designated area, defending the King’s crown, while frantically fending off the competition. Ace Hunter, starts players in a timed match (ranging from 2-4 mins), centered around getting as many kills as you can, while receiving points from each kill and an extra point for taking out the Ace. That being said, the player with the most kills becomes the Ace, so the main objective primarily translates to just staying alive; almost like an extended Survivor Mode; and really the core concept behind king of the hill games outside of Domiverse. Any of these game modes can be played on teams or as a free-for-all in Battle Mode.
Arcade Mode proves to be the main source of entertainment via single player, offering (of course) a very similar structure to Classic Mode in SSB. Players will most probably be spending the most time in this mode, as your progression through the increasingly difficult levels is varied by the changing objectives (Survivor, Ace Hunter, and King [of the hill]). Lastly, Challenge Mode is another playable format, which unsurprisingly draws just as much inspiration from SSB’s Classic Mode, as Survivor Mode pulls from SSB’s Deathmatch, and literally consists of players running through various timed stages, with the objective of destroying all targets on the screen before the timer runs out.
When starting Domiverse, beginning players will most probably experience a mild learning curve, which can prove frustrating at first. With that in mind, as someone who does not frequent hair trigger gameplay, I found that sticking it out for a whopping total of 3 minutes, to be more than sufficient time to get a leg up on the CPU competition (via easy mode); and find myself drawn into the lite strategy of the game.Upon starting my first few matches however, I was killed instantaneously, as I couldn’t get a lock on my character in time. After about the third match, I decided to go back to character selection, and make sure I knew who I was playing as. From there on out, I had much less difficulty locating my character in the few seconds before the matches began. That being said, with the 20/15 eyesight of a 24yr old, I still had minor difficulty with this on occasion (the gameplay itself is very disorienting); and those with vision impairments or aging eyesight may find it equally as difficult, if not impossible to effectively keep track of their character.
OK….now, for all you young, carrot eating, eagle eyed individuals who are still reading this, this is a game best enjoyed in a group setting with your friends, or even people you just met at a party. This is a game that is easy to pick up and learn almost immediately; a crucial factor for couch play, especially if you don’t have time to teach your friends how to play as well as you, and want to just jump into a game with them. This accessibility is supported by characters sporting a measly movepool of 2-3 unique skills and attacks, hauntingly similar to various MOBAs, or movesets in Risk of Rain; also including a stat system reminiscent of Mario Kart, revolving around attack, defense, mobility and handling. That aside, Domiverse presents a limited single player/ handheld bag of thrills; Arcade Mode (as previously mentioned) being the nucleus of 1 player gameplay.
As far as visuals go, you’re either a fan of 16 bit graphics, or you’re not. The character sprites are more than sufficient and have a uniquely endearing quality to them, while appearing relatively simplistic; as well do the various maps depicting the homeworlds of the different characters. The maps however, blend together over time, the only particularly eye catching map being Usui (as shown below).
Domiverse’s soundtrack begins slowly, and builds into an intense retro bit tune, that compliments the gameplay and helps keep players glued to the screen. Over time, it can grow seemingly monotonous, but is also a welcomed familiarity upon return from extended time not playing the game. The sound effects featured in Domiverse coalesce with the retro aesthetic emanating from the 16 bit graphics, and also help give it a cartoony vibe.Overall, Domiverse leaves you with the same feeling as speed dating, as if what you just experienced was far too short and surface level, and all you want to do to dive back in and flesh out the details. It’s long term replayability value ultimately weighs on how much time you spend playing local multiplayer games, or how obsessed you can become over competitively learning the game. I would absolutely recommend Domiverse for young teens, or anyone looking for something both fun and challenging to play with their friends on the couch. If you are someone who enjoys fast paced pixel action, this will probably appeal to you; and while this is not a must have, Domiverse more than delivers a unique, compact thrill-ride, absolutely worth the $14.99.
Story: Decent 3
Gameplay: Decent 7
Graphics: Light 7
Music/Sound: Strong 6
Overall: Strong 6
Domiverse is available for purchase now on the Nintendo eShop
A special thanks to Jim Novak and Haunted Ties for the download code!!