Ninja Usagimaru – The Mysterious Karakuri Castle (3DS) Review

Justin Celani

Puzzle Hop and Block.

Ninja Usagimaru isn’t a title I’ve ever heard of. It crossed my path due to review responsibilities, and I had absolutely no idea what this game was going to be about. Well never fear, this is a puzzle platformer in the same vein as something like Braid. It’s colorful and cute, but can it bring the puzzles that truly challenge players?

Scratching my head

There is a blurb of text that leads way to a story upon starting the game, but let’s be frank, it’s not what players are going to be investing in this title for. This is the type of game that is going to test player’s fingers, but also their brains. Ninja Usagimaru has a very basic setup. Each of the ten stages within the different worlds has a person to rescue. Each person is captured and must be unlocked by stepping on another device. Then untie the captive and lead them to the exit. Simple enough, but getting there is way harder than it sounds.

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MSRP: $5.99
Multiplayer: n/a
How long to beat: 5+ hours

Players have a few abilities at their disposal. An umbrella can lift via air pockets or a grappling hook can grab certain blocks. It’s not to say that every ability will be taken advantage of in every level, but they use some pretty creative ways to enable these items use, and had me thinking outside the box in many ways. Sometimes it was simply throwing a block to another side of the building. Other times it might involve figuring out how to get one block to another side and vice versa. Needless to say, Ninja can be quite tough at times. So much that I even have yet to finish it. I’m currently stuck. The game offers little tips to give clues, but otherwise, it seems players are on their own.

The levels are small enough so that progress in them, even if lost, it’s simple to restart, and quickly brings players to a regenerated default state. There is plenty of ways to screw up permanently, and that can come off as a bit of a deterrent. Especially having made it far into the puzzle and then a simple screw up happens. Luckily, there is a pinwheel that can be dropped down whenever players choose to, serving as a quick save after successful progress. It comes in handy, but since it can be used as often as wanted, care is required as it replaces the last one set down. I learned that the hard way.

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For the puzzle fans

What we have here is a game that aims to provide a very challenging puzzle platformer. It’s not to say it’s impossible, but it has stumped me a bunch of times and that’s just within the first few hours of the game. It’s ultimately also an experience that, once everything has been solved, doesn’t offer much replay value until all the solutions have been forgotten. The music also tends to repeat a bit too much, but I was so in the zone trying to solve the problems I barely noticed. A game for those that want nice, quick, and brain stumping challenges at home or on the go.

Favorite moment: Finally figuring out a puzzle that had you stumped for 15 minutes.

Worst moment: Making good progress and totally screwing it up. The heartbreak.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Good

  • Great puzzle elements
  • Colorful visuals

Bad

  • Limited soundtrack
  • Too challenging?
8.5

Great

Justin Celani
Justin is a long time passionate fan of games, not gaming drama. He loves anything horror related, archaeology inspired adventures, RPG goodness, Dr Pepper, and of course his family. When it comes to crunch time, he is a beast, yet rabies free we promise.
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