Have you played… Donut Dodo?

One of the best trends in modern gaming, particularly in the indie space, is the “modern retro” movement, where today’s developers look to the past for inspiration and are able to produce brand new games that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the arcade machines and home consoles of the ’80s. One of the best recent examples of this is pixel.games’ Donut Dodo, first released in 2022 and most recently introduced as the first of 2023’s free Game of the Month offerings on Evercade VS and Evercade EXP.

Donut Dodo was deliberately designed by its developer Sebastian Kostka to look and feel like a lost game from approximately 1983. To that end, unlike some other modern retro titles, it has not been made in a way that looks authentically old, but which simply wouldn’t have been possible on ’80s tech. Rather, it specifically conforms to the limitations of the era, such as low resolution pixel art and a limited number of colours on screen at once.

Its main nods to modernity are its incredibly smooth, slick performance, tight, responsive controls and elaborate chiptune soundtrack, which is probably a little beyond what early ’80s hardware would have been able to put out!

Donut Dodo

In Donut Dodo, you take on the role of Baker Billy Burns, and your quest is to retrieve all the doughnuts on each level, culminating in the giant doughnut that Donut Dodo keeps snatching away from you. You can accomplish this in one of two ways, depending on if you’re taking aim for a high score, or if you simply want to clear the stages.

In the latter case, simply jump and grab the doughnuts in whatever order you please. But for the best scores, you’ll want to grab one doughnut initially, then take aim for whichever one on screen is flashing. Collecting flashing doughnuts one after another will gradually build up the number of points each one is worth, resulting in considerably higher scores. It’s a mechanic similar to that seen in Tecmo’s classic Bomb Jack, only the sequence is randomised each time in Donut Dodo rather than following a fixed pattern.

Each stage in the game has a unique design gimmick that it is based around, as well as distinctive enemies that you’ll have to learn to avoid, since there is no means of attacking them. On the first stage, for example, there are rat-like enemies that move in a predictable pattern back and forth on platforms; these can easily be jumped over. There is also, however, a sentient toilet that acts with much more intelligence, following you around the stage and being too large to jump over. In order to stay clear of its fecal clutches, you’ll have to outwit it using the platforms, ladders and wrap-around screen.

Donut Dodo

Donut Dodo blends a lot of influences from classic ’80s games. You’ll spot elements of Pac-Man, the aforementioned Bomb Jack, BurgerTime, Bubble Bobble, Donkey Kong and numerous others as you play — but the way in which all these parts are blended together gives the whole game a distinctive feel rather than feeling like a quick and dirty ripoff of any of them. It’s an extraordinarily well-designed game, and while it certainly has the authentic early ’80s arcade game difficulty down to a fine art, it’s a game you’ll find yourself returning to time and time again.

The port to Evercade is particularly noteworthy because it marks an important milestone for the platform: support for the popular Godot engine on which Donut Dodo is built. Working with Donut Dodo’s creator Kostka, developer Emanuele Fornara assembled a new export target for Godot that allows developers to build their game in a format that will run natively on Evercade, opening up a swathe of opportunities for modern indie developers working with Godot to bring their games to a whole new, very indie-friendly platform.

Evercade was initially developed primarily as an emulation-centric platform running classic games, but more recently we have seen a number of games designed to run natively on the system. There are two native games built in to the Evercade VS firmware, for example, and Decemberborn Interactive’s Cathedral is a native port for the platform. With Donut Dodo demonstrating the beginning of official Godot support on Evercade, we can hopefully look forward to a lot more “modern retro” indie releases on the platform in the years to come!

Donut Dodo

In the meantime, Donut Dodo itself is a must-play, whatever you choose to give it a go on. It’s available for PC via Steam and Nintendo Switch as a downloadable title, and can be downloaded for free on Evercade VS and EXP by updating your firmware throughout April 2023. In February of 2024, Donut Dodo will form part of the third “Indie Heroes” collection for Evercade, allowing fans of the game and its yet-to-be-revealed Game of the Month stablemates to own a physical copy on cartridge.

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Pete Davison
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