Ignoring the urge to joke that this is a review of a medieval-themed chain of Japanese restaurants instead of a game, Sushi Castle (80 MSP) is actually a roguelike dungeon shooter whose obvious inspiration is PC indie The Binding of Issac (thanks @MavericForever). Both of them, in turn, owe their existence to Legend of Zelda. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, of course, and Milkstone Studios abides, opting for ninjas and their aesthetic in an attempt to differentiate itself. So, it’s clearly not original, but is it any fun?
It is. Having been a recent convert to the world of ‘losing all your shit once you die’ games, I quite enjoyed Sushi Castle, which places random chance on equal footing with skill. And that randomness applies to every part of the game, not just what room you find yourself in.
Using the dungeon template of the original Zelda, each room must be cleared of enemies before you can advance. Other doors require scissors (taking the place of keys), which sometimes lead to treasure rooms or wishing wells, or (careful what you wish for) more trouble. Enemy spawns and types, weapons and outfits, items that can boost or subtract your stats— they all switch up. Complete a pair of floors with a boss at the end of each, enter the next section. The goal is to get to the end without dying, however you can.
And however you go about it, expect to have a fight on your hands. Either you’re swamped with enemies or there’s traps waiting to be sprung, often in a friendly disguise like chests or items. You can never take for granted that the next room (or its contents) will be lax. And it’s those random layouts and payouts, the nagging uncertainty that precedes each decision you make, that provide the most tension and fun, and ensure a new challenge (or frustration) each playthrough.
With death comes the total reset as advertised, so there’s no strategy in holding back; hoard when you can, buy when the chance presents, and when the times comes, hit with everything you’ve got.
One final bit: The DLC section in the menu, which lists Sushi Castle‘s future intentions once the game hits certain sales milestones. I’m okay with DLC in retail. I’m even more comfortable with in XBLIG, as it’s a free update if you’ve bought the game. I just wish developers wouldn’t go out of their way to tell me what they’d like to add. Whether it’s the case or not, it smacks too much of shipping a half-finished game, dependent on the wallets of others.
Still, Sushi Castle is fun for console gamers who’ve missed out on ‘Issac’ roguelikes until now. Despite the groundwork having been laid for it, the game establishes an identity, and I welcome the DLC, if / when that happens. Not that it’s even needed. What’s in place already is good.