Ninja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri Castle for the Nintendo 3DS is a pleasant game that features a bit of Japanese lore and plenty of challenging puzzles. Usagimaru has been away on a journey in the previous game, The Gem of Blessings, and is heading home when he finds out that all of his villagers have been captured by Mononoke. Graciously, he sets out to find them and rescue each of his fellow usagi (rabbits). There are sixty stages in the game and each one requires quite a bit of brain power.
It seems that the developers wanted to push the player into thinking things through and figuring out the stages by a trial and error method. The first few stages are fairly easy to solve but after those the real challenges begin. The Mysterious Karakuri Castle dishes out easily 10 or more hours of gameplay with the baffling puzzles. This game could have benefited from having a hint option or a help section besides from the control list.
A helpful feature that is included in Karakuri Castle is the pinwheel. This pinwheel can be placed at any time while playing through a single stage and acts as a save point. If Usagimaru or the villager in distress is hurt, the player may start the stage from the pinwheel save point instead of starting the whole stage over again. Although I play and enjoy a great deal of puzzle games, I still consider myself at the intermediate level compared to the greater minds of advanced puzzle solvers. And I must admit that on several occasions I was completely stumped. After the frustration passed and a break, I could then solve the stage.
These stages are as pleasing to the eye as they are difficult to solve. The Japanese brush style is reminiscent of Capcom’s legendary Okami title. The lovely artwork helps take away the sting of messing up a stage and having to restart, as does the music. Although repetitive, the soundtrack is beautifully befitting the art style and folklore plot. It’s even soothing and helps calm the brain while struggling through a challenge.
Ninja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri Castle pushes the player into thinking carefully and reworking a stage until it is complete. This title is quite unique in its own right by using the same set of tools – the grappling hook, pinwheel, kite and kana – throughout the entire game and by including such intense puzzles. Yet, Karakuri Castle has no specific features that make it unique to the 3DS. Sadly, the touchpad and 3DS features are not utilized. However, the 3DS distinct features are not missed all that much while being memorized by the art and music. Available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, Ninja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri Castle is a wonderfully charming puzzle game to add to your digital library.
A PC Review Code was provided by Aksys Games for the purpose of this review