Monday 5 May 2014

Sayonara Umihara Kawase Review (3DS)

It’s not often we get a game series at Retro 101 that we haven’t heard much about before, but the Umihara Kawase games certainly qualify. Starting life on the Super Famicom and appearing more recently in a DS compilation the games feature tranquil styled, fish filled, worlds and feature puzzles and platform filled stages navigated by swinging around on a fishing line.

The latest game arrives on EU shores via digital download and it finally allows us to see what all the fuss is about. The game follows female protagonist Yumi as she tries to reach the exit door in each self-contained stage. The game is equal part puzzle game and platformer and the first thing you’ll need to do is work out how the fishing line works.

Yumi can attach her fishing line to most surfaces and then use it to climb and swing around the levels as well as using it to stun and capture enemies. The skill comes from knowing how to build momentum when swinging and how to catapult yourself around the levels. It takes a fair while to get used to and when we first started playing it produced much frustration early on. Slowly though, you begin to get into the way of thinking you need to progress and then everything clicks and you’ll be working out in your head exactly how to reach those ledges that seemed impossible to get to.

The initial stages don’t offer up too much challenge and you may mistakenly think you’ve seen everything the game has to offer fairly quickly. We reached what we assumed was the first boss, a frustrating encounter with a large walking fish, expecting upon defeat for more levels to open up. Instead, the end credits rolled. A little dismayed we returned to the world map only to notice paths branching off from levels we had already beaten.

There are around fifty levels hidden away and the branching paths on the world map show which levels have hidden exits. Finding the exits on each stage is challenging enough but actually reaching them can be teeth-knashingly frustrating. This is perhaps one of the games main problems as players may find they hit a wall fairly quickly and then struggle to see the rest of what’s on offer. Once you do manage to get onto another set of levels it feels great but it takes a lot of skill to do and many may not have the patience for it.

The game allows for some stunning displays of skill and however good you think you are a quick search on YouTube will reveal some Jedi-like abilities of other players. There’s no hiding the fact that it does take some dedication though. This is not the sort of game that you can just pick up and play and get to grips with straight away. It will require time to be put in and you need to accept that you are going to see some stages over and over again while you hone and improve upon your line throwing.

There are hidden back packs in each level as well which add a small collectible element to the game. Picking these up unlocks art work and music and are a nice, if non-essential, addition to your antics. Aside from this it is the sheer time attack nature of the game that will keep you playing. Levels you initially beat in minutes can be completed in seconds upon mastery of the controls and it’s interesting to see how the fishing line can be manipulated to shave seconds off your best time.

Overall, Sayonara Umihara Kawase is something a little different for 3DS owners to get to grips with. It’s an excellent concept that is implemented well and for those willing to put in the time required to master it there is a good few hours of game here. If you get the time attack bug then it will last for an age as you try and shave yet more seconds of your best time. We’re glad to see the game series finally make it Europe and we look forward the next instalment.

Overall 8/10

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