By Jonathan Falu / October 27th, 2016
|Title||Ninja Usagimaru – The Mysterious Karakuri Castle|
|Developer||Arc System Works|
|Release Date||September 29, 2016|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone|
Puzzle games are not my specialty, but I can enjoy them occasionally as I like to be challenged, and can avoid destroying any of my game systems if angered. Ninja Usagimaru – The Mysterious Karakuri Castle was one I found myself having a bit of a mixed reaction to. Fortunately, my 3DS is safe and sound.
The story is hardly existent. The point to know here is that monsters have taken villagers hostage, and as the ninja Usagimaru, you must solve puzzles and guide the villagers to safety. The visuals are quite good for the 3DS too; simple designs with a good balance of soft colors. Monster designs are taken from Japanese mythology, such as the Kappa, and each enemy has a different tactic to them. Their animations aren’t complex, and further help with the simple layout of each level too, helping to keep things from feeling more complicated. They don’t appear often though, and are also part of the puzzle as well. The music was okay overall, though nothing really memorable.
The gameplay, on the other hand, is surprisingly hard. Outside of the tutorial, each level has ten stages you can choose from to play. The good news is that they are all available from the start so if you are too frustrated, you can just move onto the next one. However, all of them must be completed in order to move onto the next section. Puzzles involve not only killing or blocking enemies, but throwing rocks around the area. Some rocks can be broken via the kunai (somehow), while your hookshot can grapple certain blocks towards you. Just don’t throw them towards a villager when they are safely down. I learned that the hard way, and had to start all over.
By using a combination of your tools, jumping, and even the enemy placement, you can reach your goal…eventually. The puzzles themselves are hard enough, but you can also get stuck on parts, forcing a restart. Fortunately, you can lay down the Pinwheel item to reset back to a certain point before any screw-ups. However, you only have one per stage attempt, meaning if you reset during a point where no progress is made, things will get more frustrating. This game was made for trial and error as you experiment in solving all of these puzzles. Fortunately, the puzzles themselves are not long, and can be solved in seconds once you finally find the solution.
One annoyance is the AI of the villagers. While they don’t mess up often, it is possible for them to get stuck in certain puzzles and refuse to move. Now technically this can be a mechanic, but this can also ruin your jumps at times. Thus it required me to go all the way around to the exact same spot to try the jump again, or force me to restart the puzzle, get to the same point, pray to whatever God in this game that the villager isn’t afraid again, and make the jump. It doesn’t happen frequently, thank god, but when it does, the game stops being fun; such is the case of escort missions.
Overall, the game can be difficult, but so long as you patient and carefully think things out, you can eventually solve these puzzles. For those easily frustrated (like me), this may not be the best choice to pick up. But for about $5.99 on the eShop, I felt there is enough value to keep you entertained.
Review code was provided by Nintendo for review purposes.
Aksys GamesArc System WorksF K DigitalNinja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri CastlePuzzle Platformer