Ninja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri Castle (3DS)

NINJA_BOXA rabbit-eared ninja named Usagimaru sets out to save villagers who have been captured by evil Oni in this puzzle platform adventure.  It has a mythical Japanese look and feel, and plays similar to other classic platform puzzlers like Solomon’s Key.  It’s available to download on the Nintendo 3DS.

As Usagimaru, you can run, jump, duck, and manipulate blocks.  You can pick up blocks, push and pull them, carry them around, and throw them.  Your job is to put a block on top of a red Oni, which will cause a blue Oni on the level to drop one of the captured villagers.  Then you must untie the villager, and make sure they’re safe as you make your way to a rabbit stone to finish the level.  Usagimaru has a few tools at his disposal to help him solve puzzles.  He has a hookshot to pull certain blocks closer to him, as well as a kite that lets him fly in the air if there is any wind.  You can also set a pinwheel somewhere in the level so if you mess up, you can warp back to where you set the pinwheel.  As you progress, you’ll gain access to other tools as well.

Sometimes enemies roam about the level.  They’re all “yokai” monsters based on Japanese myths, and include Kappa, those one-eyed umbrella things, and more.  You can dispatch them by squishing them with a block, but if you pick up the block again, they’ll continue their walk.  If you or the villager gets touched by one of these monsters or traps, you’ll have to start the level over again.  The game will keep record of how many times you’ve attempted a level, as well as your best time of completion.  You can also earn trophies by reaching certain milestones.  The game also has kind of a sumi-e art style, similar to games like Okami.

The game does have a few problems here and there.  Most of the time the controls are accurate, but sometimes it can be hard to judge how far you can jump, which may lead to some unnecessary mistakes.  When you free a villager, they’ll follow your, but sometimes they’ll stop for no reason I could tell, and it’s hard to get them to follow you again.  The difficulty also seems a bit unbalanced, as you may finish a particularly stumping level, and then the next stage may be super easy.  The bottom screen on the 3DS will show hints, but sometimes they’re not very helpful.  I would’ve liked to have seen a more comprehensive hint system, but I do like that they also show you what the buttons do on the bottom screen, since there is so much you can do in the game.  But other than those problems, this is still a pretty neat little downloadable puzzle game.  If you enjoyed classic puzzlers like Solomon’s Key, you’ll definitely want to check this one out, too.


Kid Factor:

Ninja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri Castle is rated E for Everyone with an ESRB descriptor of Mild Fantasy Violence.  If you or the villager gets touched by an enemy, you just fall off the screen.  If you squish an enemy under a block, you can still see them wriggling around underneath, and if you pick the block up again, they’ll pop right back out.  So violence is only cartoony.  Reading skill is helpful for the text, and younger gamers may get frustrated at the high difficulty and may need help.  Because the game reinforces logic and thinking skills, it could be considered somewhat educational, though.

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