Ninja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri Castle (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Thom Compton 27.10.2016

Review for Ninja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri Castle on Nintendo 3DS

Sometimes, it feels like gamers write off the Nintendo eShop for being the home of off-brand games that feel like student projects at best. Its depths are filled with generic match threes and cliché RPGs, but that assumption is largely unfair. There are a lot of hidden gems in the eShop that deserve a good look, much like the Xbox Live Indie Game channel was many years ago. If needing a good stepping stone into the wealth the 3DS eShop offers, Ninja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri Castle is a great launching point.

Ninja Usagimaru is a puzzle game disguised as an adventure title. The player is responsible for using the various commands to navigate the screen, save the maiden in danger, and escort them to the exit. This is hindered by various layouts, hazards, and enemies along the path, which the player must learn to work around to succeed. It's a perfectly example of a simple idea given a lot of depth and charm.

The subtle Sumi art style mixed with pixel art is charming, and makes the world feel like a living, breathing place, even if each level is restricted to one screen at a time. Some of the colours are a little bland, but any fan of traditional Japanese art will find a lot to love in the level design. It's a shame that the entire game doesn't make use of 3D, but it doesn't really feel like a missed opportunity so much as a cool "could have been." Throw in the beautiful music, and this is an aesthetic package that many may find gorgeous to the eyes and the ears.

Screenshot for Ninja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri Castle on Nintendo 3DS

The focus of the game really is the unique controls. Instead of using a simple control layout, it instead utilises controls almost akin to a fighting game. They aren't as complicated as up, down, right, A, B, flip the 3DS and do a dance to execute an attack, but they are still fairly deep for a simple puzzle-platformer. The biggest issue that can be come across is trying to remember everything as you traverse each puzzle, but the game is nice enough to keep the controls at the top of the screen.

Levels are well designed, and feature a good breadth of variation to keep the player on their toes. It really doesn't feel like anything is missing from the package, but something clearly is. It is the very thing that makes the game unique that also makes it confusing and often a battle between the player and their own understanding of the game. Early on, Ninja Usagimaru feels more difficult than perhaps it should, escalating the pacing only to slow it down to a snail's crawl again. Couple this with the fact that some things are supposed to be assumed, and it's easy to see why someone may not find much for them here.

It's hard trying to make new and unique gameplay without having some rough edges, but the payoff should be high even if the execution is fairly off. Ninja Usagimaru manages to feel rewarding even if a lot of the time is spent playing against the game. It's really just held up by the complex controls, and getting used to them is rough at first. Still, over time, you'll get there, and find that this is a fun little treat. It's definitely a good game in short bursts, but grows tiresome over long periods of time. Still, it's incredibly fun once the way it works is grasped.

Screenshot for Ninja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri Castle on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Sure, the title is long and the gameplay takes a bit to get used to, but this is a unique smaller experience that could fit into short breaks from the rest of life. Make no mistake, it's not the most inviting game, but it does make you feel like you are part of an exclusive club. An exclusive club that fought the base controls and found a fun little title hiding behind them.


Arc System Works







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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