Aksys Games has been publishing a handful of small indie games and the like all this year, and one game in the latest batch would be Ninja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri Castle for the 3DS. It's a fun little puzzle game with some minor platforming elements to keep things interesting. It also doesn't hurt that it's a great title for those on a budget, as the game is totally worth the price.

The game follows a ninja named Usagimaru, who was once a rabbit, but was tricked by a being and cursed into a human form. With the help of another rabbit, he heads to Karakuri Castle to find the one responsible and bring them to justice, while hopefully restoring his true form. Along the way, he'll also be rescuing various hostages, with the goal being to clear a safe path for them towards the rabbit statue.

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You can jump, crawl, lift, and throw blocks to traverse the terrain, although you'll also need to destroy weak blocks with your Kunai. Using a kite, you can float up towards higher areas. If you screw up you can use a rewind scroll to the last pinwheel you set down. It's a good way to reset back to your last move, assuming you set it up beforehand. Otherwise, you will have to redo the whole level. A lot of the game will be trial and error, but it's rewarding once you discover the correct solution.

Ninja Usagimaru's music is wonderful, and the art style uses Sumi-e artwork to accentuate the music. After every 10 levels, you complete a world, and get some more story to Usagimaru's adventure. It also feature trophies for ardent trophy hunters. However, the only real issues with the game might stem from the fact that there might be too many levels in any given world. Because of this, it starts to get a bit tedious after so many failed attempts or around the fifth level in any world.

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The game seems short, but the numerous retries will push the finish time well into the ten-hour range. The other issues stem from the finickiness of the controls, especially when it comes to jumping distance. The last issue would be of when the rescued hostages become scared and stops following you. This can cause the level to forfeit. Otherwise, the cheap price, cute art style, wonderful music, and challenging but fun gameplay makes Ninja Usagimaru a good choice for the budget puzzle gamer.

VERDICT:

The Good: The gameplay is fun and challenging.
The Bad: The AI for the hostages sometimes works against you.
The Ugly: Really easy to screw up the level due to jump controls.

SUMMARY: Ninja Usagimaru is a cute, challenging, and fun puzzle platformer.

FINAL GRADE:

Promotional consideration made by Alia Caroll and Aksys Games

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