Sushi Castle

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 red stuff is blood. The green stuff is acid. Don’t touch the acid. You probably shouldn’t touch the blood either. It’s not sanitary.

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.

This screen-shot alone is enough to send fans of the Binding of Isaac into a rage if the comments on YouTube are any indication.

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.”

Sushi Castle was developed by Milkstone Studios

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.

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20 Responses to Sushi Castle

  1. You know I made a game (Invader on XBLIG) and it was the opposite, instead of patterns for the enemies they would be randomly arranged from a group of choices… The kids hated it!!! They like the easy to memorize patterns.

    Meh it’s damned if you do damned if you don’t. I was going to re visit the game, making it more “pattern based” or as my son says, it give the player artificial intelligence. they memorize patterns and think they’re smart.

    • After reading this I had to go and play Invader. I think it’s decent. I don’t have any objection at all to the randomly chosen attack patterns.

      But as you said, if you please one person you’ll displease another. A thankless task, game development.

  2. From my perception, Milkstone tends to know how to make art and code, but aren’t that good at design and game feel itself. They’ve made 17 games, which means they have to pump them out pretty fast considering their art and stability, but probably don’t put in the due-diligence when it comes to design. This also comes from the fact that a LOT of their games are considered clones of existing games, and perhaps the thought isn’t put into them past “it will be like game XYZ”. The best example of this is Avatar Farms. It’s a 3d, avatar based Farmville clone, but at release forgot that the game was being played on an XBox, and took design philosophies from a phone and social network based, micropayment game. It took a lot of features from farming games that don’t make any sense on the XBox, like growth times, spoiling times, etc which made for a painful experience on a platform that players can’t just quickly pop into their games on. The polish was there visually, but not physically. They know how to make something that displays well more than something that feels right, and its what makes a lot of their games feel painful to play.

    • Well articulated, and I think you have a point. I haven’t played enough of Milkstone’s games to say for sure, but based on my experience I agree that they seem to just lift designs whole. It worked there, therefore it’ll work here. And it doesn’t necessarily, not to mention that people dislike ‘rip-offs’.

      • The Grumble says:

        I’ve played a fair amount of Milkstone’s games and it does seem for them its very good art, very good idea but it always seems to be the gameplay that’s a let down or more correctly the pacing with enemies etc being bullet sponges. I think half the issue is not trying the game or not trying the game for long enough to see the issues. I think they really have potential it seems to be their more original series of Firing Range that is one of their better ones.

    • I’m still surprised that people think the Avatar Farm formula is not suited for a home console. We have lots of people playing regularly and loving the game (we have people that have been playing for almost a year now), and that’s why it’s the only game we keep updating it after a year.

      Not every people played farmville on their smartphones, you know? Yes, the social part is a bit lacking, but people don’t care that much about it.

  3. this game is actually a direct ripoff of the binding of isaac. tons of enemy types and attack patterns, items, level designs,….everything except the ninja theme is a copy.

  4. Rik Swift says:

    Milkstone Studios’ Raventhorne has received an update which supposedly improved its combat significantly, perhaps we should stop picking on it now? No? Fair enough, I’m sure it’s still a massive bag of wank.

    • The Grumble says:

      I know they have dropped the price but I haven’t heard much about this update. If they have fixed it I think people will give them credit once they get time etc to get round to it because at present even till a few months ago the game has quite bad issues with the gameplay pacing.

  5. PutridMeat says:

    Really? All the things you list as the negatives for this game are more or less the key aspects that made The Binding of Isaac a huge sleeper hit. It can sometimes be 8-bit Mega Man levels of punishing, it’s uneven, it doesn’t hold your hand and lets you discover the effects of items on your own, and often presents you with choices that can grant you a boon or totally ruin your playthrough. Yet it is fun to discover the dizzying amount of different items and learn their effects, refreshing to be held accountable for my gameplay decisions, and rewarding to finish the game and realize that it took some oldskool bullet-hell-dodgin’ viddyagamin’ skills that a lot of gamers in this current gen don’t have.

    I get the feeling that you wouldn’t be able to handle 15 minutes playing Nethack. But that’s cool, brutalcore games like that aren’t for everyone. Doesn’t mean they “suck”. People wouldn’t still be playing Nethack after 20 years if it “sucked”, nor would the gaming industry go on to incorporate that formula in various ways all the way from one-man-band indie devs to AAA Megalocorp publishers.

  6. Ivan Murillo says:

    I have purchased most of the milkstone games because I believe they are phenominal. However I feel they dropped the ball on this one. It definately feels like a clone of “Binding of Isaac” but thats not the issue here. Calling it a Rip-Off is just poor evaluation in itself. if Sushi is a Rip-off of Isaac then Isaac is a Rip-off of Zelda, and Any platform game would be a rip-off of Mario or even Atari’s Pit Fall. The fact of the matter here, is execution. The controls are stiff and the gameplay is dull, the characters are forgetable, I agree with this review. I am glad to see it properly reviewed. There is no need to slaughter a game people have worked so hard on. The stage art looks great, and the sound is great. I’m looking forward to Milkstones next release.

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  10. What a load of bullshit. First of all, this game isn’t a roguelike. It has roguelike elements such as permadeath and “random” room generation but the most important criteria for roguelike is turn based combat. With that pedantic bitching out of the way, it’s strange that you call yourself the indie gamer chick but make virtually no mention of the game these guys ripped off and simply say, “haven’t played it won’t play it LOL.” 10 minutes with the binding of Isaac and you will understand why this games designers deserve to go under. They put so much effort into this shitty clone and yet they couldn’t be fucked to come up with any original ideas. It’s just sad. you saying this game was unforgiving is just trashing the concepts that make binding of Isaac great, that’s the point! Every run should be different and challenging. In the end your criticisms were about the format of the game, which is highly enjoyable and not about the fact that these devs straighT up stole their ideas from an ACTUAL indie dev. I’m sure you and Anita would be great friends

    • At the time I wrote this review, I only reviewed console games. Hence why I didn’t have plans to play Binding of Isaac.

      “I’m sure you and Anita would be great friends”

      I have no love or respect for Anita Sarkeesian. But I don’t have to resort to ad-hominid attacks to make my points about her. You’ve made two posts here, where you accused me of being in league with her, based purely on my gender, and where you called another reader an idiot. You’re what’s wrong with gaming.

    • Interesting that this comment appears 18 months after the fact, coincidentally at exactly the time when it’s becoming fashionable to be a roguelike elitist. Hmm.

      In any case, it’s not possible to play every game ever made, so there’s no way to be familiar with every game that has influenced something you’re playing. I guarantee there are games you enjoy that have been influenced by others that you’ve never played. Moreover, I assume you’ve never actually played Sushi Castle, or not for more than a few minutes. If you’d put a couple of hours into it you’d know that while it does draw very heavily on The Binding of Isaac, it also introduces features of its own that, while not enough to prevent it being extremely derivative, do save it from being a total carbon copy. If you’re going to attack something for being a ‘rip off’ you should familiarise yourself with it first. If anything, that’s a worse offence than being unfamiliar with the original.

      I also think it’s worth making the point that it can be hard to distinguish between a ‘rip off’ and a new genre. In the mid-80s a lot of games mimicked Super Mario Bros. A LOT. Were they rip offs? Perhaps, perhaps not. Probably both. But they were also a genre – SMB created a new type of platform game, a new genre, and others followed. It’s too soon to say whether or not Isaac has done the same. If it has, then there’s no clear distinction between ‘rip off’ and ‘same genre’.

      Nuance of thought, sir. It’s useful in adult life. Beginning a diatribe with “what a load of bullshit”, on the other hand, is not and will usually prevent anyone taking you seriously.

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