Ninja Usagimaru -The Mysterious Karakuri Castle- Nintendo 3DS Review

GameStop, Inc.


Ninja Usagimaru -The Mysterious Karakuri Castle- is the 2nd installment in the Ninja Usagimaru 2D action-puzzle series by Aksys Games. Released in August 2015 in Japan, the game has finally hit North America and Europe.


You play as Usagimaru, a legendary ninja, whose sole purpose is to protect his village from monsters known as Mononoke. He is joined by his trusty heavenly rabbit, Toyoukebime, to dispel evil and protect the village. Through 60+ levels, you solve short puzzles using Usagimaru’s skills, kunai, hookshot, and kite. Your goal is to save villagers from Mononokes and take them to an Usagi Statue. Every level has various monsters and obstacles that require you to think a few moves ahead before committing to any actions. Thankfully, the game provides a reusable checkpoint feature that allows you to place a pinwheel anywhere on the stage. You can return to that point whenever you make a mistake.

As most action-puzzle games go, there isn’t much of a storyline other than what you read from the description of the game. You start the level, solve puzzles, retrieve a villager, finish the level and move on to the next. What Ninja Usagimaru -The Mysterious Karakuri Castle- does differently is that the steps to finish each level don’t have to be done in any particular order. Once you complete a level, you can go back and try a new way and/or solve it faster. After the quick tutorial, you are thrown right into challenging puzzles. If you’re not used to puzzle games, this one will definitely take a few minutes to figure out.


The cute/chibi-like art style is definitely a hit or miss with gamers, especially those who haven’t played the 1st installment, -The Gem of Blessings-. On the other hand, puzzle game fans that enjoy games like the renowned Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo will see this as a plus. Other than the art style, there isn’t much to take away from the graphics, as it looks like your typical 8-bit/retro puzzler.


The most troubling issues with this game are the clunky controls, lack of touch screen use, and absence of some sort of achievement system for completing levels.

While doing my play through, I found myself continuously starting levels over. I didn’t realize I wasn’t moving my joystick in the EXACT direction and timing before pressing a button to use the character’s skill or place an item. I tried not to use the pinwheel (I saw it as a cop-out), but quickly realized there was no penalty for using them. Placing them right before an obstacle usually helped me avoid starting the level over. Even while using the pinwheel, I just couldn’t solve some puzzles without dying because of the controls. I was basically at the mercy of the control inputs and hoping that I did everything correctly in the string of an obstacle.

A small peeve of mine on the 3DS is when a game doesn’t use the touch screen at all. Even for menu options, where a simple press of an item will get you through the menu faster, should be in every 3DS game. I understand that it isn’t necessary for a puzzle game, but the use of the touch screen for certain skills/actions would have helped out significantly. This probably would have stopped me from restarting levels for reasons stated previously. The game had none of that and the bottom screen was only used to remind you of SOME controls and give Toyoukebime unnecessary dialogue about the level.

The level system is great in most games to maximize replay value and get people to accomplish a goal or get a reward out of the game, but for -The Mysterious Karakuri Castle-, this does not happen. Once you finish a level, you never go back to it and you never need to finish any of them quickly because there is no penalty. For completing a level, all you get is a clear symbol over the stage. Once you’ve completed 10 levels, 10 new levels appear, so on and so forth. I would understand if this was a relaxing puzzle game like Sudoku, but this is an ACTION-puzzle game and most of the components are lackluster and didn’t keep my interest in the game after 30 minutes.


While most of the levels are challenging, the game proves to be more troublesome than fun. You never get to enjoy the game for what it’s supposed to be: an action-puzzler. More often than not, you will realize the action and puzzle aspects aren’t blended well.

If you enjoyed the 1st installment of the series, you will most likely be content with Ninja Usagimaru -The Mysterious Karakuri Castle-. For avid puzzle game fans, this is probably a game you can skip and try something less frustrating.

Ninja Usagimaru -The Mysterious Karakuri Castle- is currently available in the Nintendo eShop for $5.99.

Ninja Usagimaru -The Mysterious Karakuri Castle-
  • 6/10
    Aesthetics - 6/10
  • 4/10
    Gameplay - 4/10
  • 5/10
    Puzzles - 5/10


+ Challenging puzzles
+ Cute art-style

– Clunky controls
– No touch screen use
– No level rewards
– Little replay value

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