July 19, 2012 16 Comments
Sushi Castle sounds like the logical spinoff of Panda Express, but actually it’s the latest game by Milkstone Studios. Apparently, it’s supposed to be like the XBLIG version of The Binding of Isaac, a popular independent game available on Steam. I haven’t played it and I have no plans to, so I can’t really comment on that. Thus, Sushi Castle has to stand on its own for this review. And stand it does, albeit with the aid of 20lb leg braces and something sturdy to lean on. It would seem the game has been crippled by a case of video polio.
Sushi Castle is a roguelike twin-stick shooter where you explore various randomized levels looking for trinkets and shooting enemies. It can be fun, when the amount of enemies you have to fight is manageable. When they’re not, which is all too often, the game gets kind of boring. It’s not that the enemies are difficult. They typically have simple-to-memorize patterns and are about as easy to avoid as vegetarians at KFC.
The difficulty really comes from the sheer volume of them. Some rooms throw too many at you, all shooting at you from different sides, which makes taking damage unavoidable. Despite the setup as a TwickS, you can only fire in eight-directions, and thus you’re forced to put yourself into a direct line-of-fire with the enemies. Sometimes there are enemies that spawn other enemies. And every single baddie in the game is a total bullet sponge. The biggest challenge with the combat in this game is staying awake. In rooms where there’s only a couple of guys to take out, it’s not bad at all. When you have a half-dozen or more, the action is so boring, so repetitive, and so unfair that Sushi Castle jumps in and out of being a bad game, like it’s indecisive about whether it wants to suck or not.
Levels are relatively small and straight-forward, which probably owes greatly to the random nature of the game. There are tons of items to be had, although you generally have no fucking clue what they do before using them. Some of them outright screw you over. Don’t you love it when games do that? “Hey fellas, being trapped in a room with unavoidable artillery isn’t enough. Let’s make the items be potentially hazardous too. That shit is always a crowd-pleaser!” I don’t understand the logic of it. I can’t understand the logic of it. Given that the game would be pretty fucking swell without them, I don’t think Sushi Castle is on the fence about whether it wants to suck or not. I think it made its choice. I think it wants to suck.
But, these are the guys who did Raventhorne, so it should be no surprise that they even failed at that. Sushi Castle honestly isn’t bad. Despite the barrage of items that are really dick moves or the spongy enemies, I had fun with it. Sort of. I mean, it sucked that I could build up my gun’s strength to fuck-you levels of badassery, have twenty points of health, a stockpile of bombs, and a cloud-thing that let me float over blocks, yet it just takes one room with a hateful random spawn to fuck everything up. I mean, come on. Four guys who have every possible angle of fire covered, AND they spawn little fireball dudes, and all of them take more bullets to kill than Rasputin? That’s just spiteful.
Okay, so Sushi Castle isn’t great or anything, nor is it a game that will stick with you after you either finish it or get pissed off and rage-delete it from your hard drive. But, it can be a perfectly fine waste of an hour or two. It’s funny though, because the guys at Milkstone do obviously have the chops. Their games are always a tier or two above the average XBLIG in terms of audio-visual standards, and the games are at least decent in concept. Yet, there’s always something about them that reels the game back into mediocrity. I’m telling you guys, I think I’m on to something about the “minimal shittiness quota” that Xbox Live Indie Games seems to have. If it actually turns out to be a real thing, props to Milkstone for their skillfulness. It takes a real mastery of your craft to subtly crap-up your games. Even Nintendo couldn’t do it properly, which is why they said “oh fuck it, let’s just make the controller an unresponsive piece of shit and call it a day.”
80 Microsoft Points said “Jesus, even the fireballs bleed in this game? Quentin Tarantino has more restraint than that!” in the making of this review.
Sushi Castle is ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. Click here to see where it landed.