BOKURA: Two Sides of the Same Co-Operative Coin
Explore the same world from two opposing perspectives in BOKURA, a short pixel art co-op game.
BOKURA presents the player - or pair of players - with a unique method of cooperative gameplay. Instead of sharing the same screen and battling the same challenges as a team, BOKURA invites each player to complete their own challenges and work together to overcome them.
Similar in concept to games like A Way Out and Game of the Year winner It Takes Two, BOKURA strides into an innovative new frontier to deliver a co-op experience truly unlike any other I have experienced in recent memory. Compared to the above examples, BOKURA endeavours to create an asymmetrical experience that, while short, delivers engaging and interesting storytelling and gameplay that was a joy to experience from the beginning to its heartwarming end.
This game is designed to be shared, and so one of the most important decisions left to a player is exactly who to play with. Communication is absolutely vital in this game, as each player is truly experiencing their own journey, while in collaboration. On a surface level, this manifests in the two different visual styles that define the game. Player 1 will see a more natural world, with anthropomorphic animals to interact with and a warm natural environment; Player 2, journeys through a more cold and metallic environment. Neither player ever experiences the same thing, and because of this, communication becomes all the more important.
The game takes place in an easy-to-understand 2D plain with easily understood puzzles and challenges on each screen. BOKURA encourages players to take their time and talk over each puzzle with their partner and come to a solution in their own time. This slow pace prevents frustration and any particular irritation as you journey through the world. Over the course of the game, you'll face increasingly complex challenges between the two of you. The steady difficulty curve meant that neither I nor my friend was more than a small discussion away from a solution that felt great to come up with and even greater to execute! The game aims for a slightly heavier slant toward puzzle platforming so moving around the screen becomes part of the puzzle itself; when you can't jump high or far, ladders will be your best friend.
Each of these worlds has a unique and fantastically detailed pixel aesthetic that manages to perfectly show the differences between the two worlds in which you find yourself. The warm colours of the forest are perfectly put against the bleak and cold architecture of the machine world.
The story follows two boys who encounter a deceased deer after they run away from home, an experience that proves to be overwhelming. After waking up, their views of the world are then split, and from there the real game begins as you and your friend journey through the woodlands/mechanical wasteland.
Along the way, there'll be certain decisions that will change the overarching narrative in significant ways, but for the sake of this review, we won't be discussing any of the details here. The decisions that you and your partner make should be up to you to discuss, not for me to tell you!
BOKURA is also a short game - with the developer touting a 3 to 4-hour runtime for the average player. In this case, a short game makes for a far more pleasant and digestible experience. The idea that a game has to span dozens of hours to be worth your attention is a silly concepy that will harshly limit the experiences you can enjoy. In this case, BOKURA is easily finishable in one or two sessions that'll leave you plenty satisfied and hopefully asking for more.
As someone who juggles playing other games and other life things, the prospect of a cooperative game that would take weeks upon weeks of scheduling free time is a logistical nightmare that gives me a headache just thinking about it, let alone actually attempting to organise it. So I graciously thank developer Kodansha for making a digestible experience that I and my friend could enjoy from beginning to end. The pacing of BOKURA should be applauded.
BOKURA is a game that I'm glad to have been able to experience, not only for the interesting and heartwarming tale of the two boys but also for offering an exceptionally memorable and enjoyable cooperative experience with a friend. Many games now somewhat cheapen their cooperative experience for the sake of a single-player one, and many offer the same experience for both players. BOKURA marks the first time that me and my friends have been playing two sides of the same game, and having to communicate, for the same goal.
I hope to see more games like this in the future.
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