I would like to preface this review with a statement, and the statement is thus: I am not the intended audience for this game. I have nothing against puzzle games, in fact I enjoy many of them. However, this particular genre of puzzlers is not my cup of tea…At all. If I was dying of thirst in a desert and all I had to drink was this cup of tea, I would just roll over and let death take me. That being said, on to the review!
Ninja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri Castle is an action puzzler game. You move the aforementioned ninja rabbit around levels constructed with different types of blocks trying to figure out the correct order to move things so that you can avoid enemies and rescue hostages. If I had to give you an example of the type of genre this fits into, it would probably be something like “The Adventures of Lolo” only side-scrolling instead of top down.
This game is absolutely brutal. It expects perfection from you right from the get-go. It will meticulously keep track of how inadequate you are, so if you don’t enjoy confronting the fact you aren’t as smart as you think you are, you probably shouldn’t play this. As you sit there desperately trying to move blocks around so that you don’t trap yourself while the clock is ticking upwards at an alarming rate, it will hit you. You have no idea how to beat this puzzle.
Usually puzzle games start off relatively easy and gradually get harder. This game is not like that, at least not for me. My brain doesn’t think in the rational cycles required to solve such puzzles with any degree of efficiency. The puzzles start off challenging the second you leave the tutorial stages, especially so if you’re not good at visualizing possible solutions many steps beforehand. You could be moving blocks around trying to figure a level out, only to realize you sealed your own fate 5 minutes ago when you innocently moved 1 block to get to a ledge or so on. There can be quite a bit of trial and error here, so brace yourself.
You have various tools at your disposal, but you’ll constantly wish you had more as our heroic rabbit can’t seem to jump over more than 1 block at a time (pretty shameful for a rabbit who happens to be a ninja). Your kunai can break cracked blocks, your ninja kite can fly upwards in air currents, your pin-wheel can act as a reset point should you trap yourself, and your hookshot can grab certain types of blocks and pull them closer. You better hope your wits are more useful than your available tools or else you’ll never succeed in your quest.
The game has plenty of charm I suppose, given that you like rabbits, ninjas and stock ninja/Japanese sound effects, music, and enemies. In all honesty, it comes off a bit uninspired and generic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean its bad. Just don’t go in expecting this game to set off any inspirational fires in your mind. It’s a block moving puzzler with ninjas, oni, rabbits, and just about every trapping you can think of that would be associated with any of those things.
Once again I would like to point out that I am not the intended audience for this game, but i can recognize that if you enjoy this sort of puzzler and this sort of setting, you would get a good deal of enjoyment from it. This is not a bad game at all. My review might seem a bit scathing, but i’m not trying to be. I’m just giving you a review from the perspective of somebody who found pure frustration from the game. I’m sure there is an audience out there for this type of game, I just was not the perfect fit for it. Your mileage will obviously vary.