When we learned about a retro-styled game featuring a dodo as the primary antagonist, we just had to check it out. What could be a more appropriate game to cover for Retro Dodo? That’s right – it’s time to take a look at our official Donut Dodo review!
Donut Dodo is a throwback to early arcade platformers. You know the type: games such as Donkey Kong (and its sequels), Burger Time or the original Mario Bros (some of which feature on our very own list of the best arcade games!).
They’re the kinds of games you can pick up and play immediately, without any need for a manual, cutscenes or any kind of story-based justification for what’s going on.
Gameplay is fast and furious, the objective is simple and obvious, high score chasing provides much of the sense of achievement and, oh yeah, the most important thing: absolutely everything can kill you.
What Is Donut Dodo all about?
In Donut Dodo, you play as chef Billy Burns, whose objective is to collect all of the donuts on a level, before then grabbing the massive donut and moving on to the next stage.
At any point, one of the smaller donuts will be flashing. Collect that one next and you’ll get a decent bonus.
Once collected, another one of the remaining donuts will flash. You don’t have to collect the flashing ones of course, but it does mean a sweet high score if you do.
General Rule: If It Moves – Avoid It!
There’s a rule you must heed when entering any stage of Donut Dodo and one we had to learn quickly during this Donut Dodo review: if it’s not a mode of transport and it moves, it’ll kill you.
That goes for the toilets, cute flames and rats (amongst other enemies), but also the enormous, thieving Dodo who guards the giant donut on each stage too.
Oh, and did I mention that the Donkey Kong-esque Dodo will also be launching fireballs into the level?
Don’t think that you’re safe even from inanimate objects either, because spikes are liberally dotted around most stages, awaiting the unceremonious fall or misjudged jump of poor little Billy Burns.
Each stage brings a new layout and a new wrinkle to proceedings – and you’ll have to conquer the Easy/Medium levels before you can unlock the more challenging stages.
No Such Thing As Easy Mode In Donut Dodo
Now, the fact that the immediately playable sequence of levels is called Easy/Medium is a bit misleading, because Donut Dodo – true to the spirit of those coin-guzzling early arcade titles – is rock hard.
Donut Dodo is Definitely Tough – But Always Plays Fair
The thing is – and this is as true now as it was in the early 80s, when arcades inspired the design of countless video games, even those made for consoles and computers – it’s always fair.
You know when you mess up in Donut Dodo that it’s no one’s fault but your own.
Got caught by a rat whose pattern sees it using the wraparound screen to run behind you just when you’re about to pick up that last small donut?
Your fault – you weren’t paying attention to everything that was going on!
Fallen on some spikes at the bottom of the screen?
Your fault – they were there all along and you should have been more careful when leaping to get that donut!
How about running into a corner while being chased by a particularly angry toilet? There are ways to avoid being trapped by these porcelain beasts, so yes, again – that’s on you!
Get Good – Or Die Trying (A Lot!)
You’ll die a lot at first in Donut Dodo, but you’ll keep coming back for more because it’s an incredibly addictive and compelling game – it’s as perfect a tribute to classic arcade gameplay as I’ve ever seen.
It’s been lovingly crafted from top to bottom, with great use of bold, bright colours, superbly bouncy animation and a fantastic, frantic soundtrack by CosmicGem.
It Might Not Appeal To Modern Gamers
Given its difficulty level, it does require some persistence – and an awful lot of dying – to progress; this high level of challenge means that it won’t be for everyone.
Gamers unfamiliar with early 80s single screen platformers might not even truly understand what all the fuss is about, especially as there are only five stages to conquer – and a bonus stage – albeit the difficulty is ramped up as they repeat on subsequent difficulty settings.
Packed With Nostalgic References
Yet Donut Dodo absolutely nails everything it sets out to do – and does so with a considerable amount of style and charm.
It’s packed with little references to lots of classic games – even Billy Burns himself has a touch of Peter Pepper, the hero of Burger Time, about him, and there’s loads of sound effects, as well as enemies and level elements, that directly homage games such as Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. and more besides.
The screen border recalls the beautiful, illustrative and informative design of arcade cabinets of yesteryear – and even the high score leaderboards have three letter names that cheekily reference several aforementioned arcade platformers.
Retro Dodo’s Official Verdict
Donut Dodo really is one of the best retro homages I’ve had the fortune to play in a very long time; if you grew up on games such as the original Donkey Kong arcade titles (or their NES ports), Burger Time or Nintendo’s Popeye game, you’ll have a blast with the nostalgia-fuelled, NES-hard challenge of Donut Dodo.
Donut Dodo will be released on the 1st of December 2022 on the Nintendo Switch. Many thanks to publisher Flynn’s Arcades for providing us with a code for this Donut Dodo review.
Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.