IMG_9467When I saw the announcement for Usagi Yojimbo: Way of the Ronin, I was pretty stoked. As a comic fan, when I see some of my favorites make it to the video game screen, I really like to see that the game has to offer. I jumped on this one as soon as I saw it.

This game is made by Happy Giant, LLC and the folks over there seem very cool.  Their other game in the App Store is Dolphin Paradise which is a 3D game but I haven’t played that one.  So, I really did not have any expectation as to the game play for this new title.  I’ve played through the first 3 levels (of 13) on both my iPad and iPhone to try to get a good feel for how the game works on both platforms.

You play as Usagi Yojimbo, created by Stan Sakai and published by Dark Horse comics.  He’s a ronin named Miyamoto Usagi.  Yojimbo basically means ‘body guard’ and ties to his ronin sellsword ways. He’s wandering the countryside and in this storyline he comes across a priest who has been robbed of a powerful mirror artifact.  He begins his journey to find the mirror and return it to its rightful place.  The image above shows the first few screens of the story line.  This should give you an idea about the look and feel.

This is a basic side scrolling adventure – you kill enemies using your sword and earn coins through the process.  The coins can be traded in for character upgrades.  Amazingly missing from this game is the ability to buy more coins through in-game purchases using real currency.  I think I like that.  It makes me feel like the game is more genuine somehow.  The coins are easy to earn and thus it is easy to upgrade your character.  The first couple levels are easy but by the third, I felt it necessary to get some upgrades to finish off the last couple bosses.  I’m sure as the game progresses, the enemies will be more difficult and again it’ll be a requirement to upgrade or … Perish!  Along the way you will encounter ‘friends’ who will help you battle the enemy and as with other games certain objects can be destroyed/broken.  Inside you’ll find hearts (heath) or more coins.

Entertainment value – 4/5

The game follows the journey of our hero, Usagi Yojimbo as he battles his way through various enemies.  He meets up with other friends/characters from the comics and some of these help him fight the bad guys.  So, the story itself is neat if you’re a fan, plus you get to see cut shots of dialog which thankfully you can skip through if you have to replay a level.  My concern here is that there are only 13 levels.  I played through the first 3 in about 5 to 10 minutes on the iPad the other day.  I’m sure the game gets progressively more difficult which might add to the entertainment but I’m not clear on that yet.  The game gets a bonus point for being comic-like.  I love that.

Ease of use – 4/5

To control Usagi, your left thumb controls direction (U,D,L,R) and the right thumb controls your attack and defense.   There’s a quick attack and a stronger, slower attack depending on the area/virtual button you press.  I like the control of movement of the character quite a bit – the control seems more general in nature meaning there’s not just one small area on the screen that acts as a virtual joystick.  It’s more of a swiping motion on the left side of the screen.  This allows for less focus on the controls and more focus on the game play.  The virtual buttons are also large enough to allow for you to not have focus too much on which on you are pressing.  The downside of the game that it seems to store up your button presses.  So, if I tap the blue button a bunch of times, but then try to move away from the enemies, there can be a delay while the previous button taps play out.  Since the same buttons are used to block, it just feels a little weird during game play.  The nice thing is, once you figure it out, you can slow down your button mashing and be more strategic with your attacks and blocks.

The game play was much easier for me on the iPad vs the iPhone.  I think the larger screen gives me more control over thumb placement and allows me to see what is happening during the game more easily.

Likelihood of replay – 3/5

There are not very many levels (13) so I’m not highly likely to play again after I play it through.  If more content were added, I’d be curious enough to play it again.   This rating may go up after I’ve played the game – I may fall in love with some of the power ups and want to play it through again.

Graphics and sound – 4/5

I’m a fan of the comic style games.  This one looks pretty good although there does not appear to be a lot of variety in the animation of the enemies.  Again after having played only the first 3 levels, I don’t know if that changes over time but I’m guessing that it doesn’t.  But that’s ok!  It still looks pretty good.

I also like the eastern style sound track and sound effects.  Everything there sounds good and adds some emotion to the game.

Overall 4/5

The game costs $1.99 – Obviously very affordable but might be seen as pricey for an iOS game.

  • The story line is entertaining and the art looks nice, especially if you are a comic fan
  • The game play takes a little getting used to but can be figured out easily
  • There are 13 levels, 50 enemy types, 13 bosses
  • The story is enhanced by dialog and animation between levels
  • Powerups are easily acquired through experience
  • Additional character enhancements (attack, defense , health) can be purchased with in-game currency

[UPDATE: 3/2/13 – I’ve heard from the folks at Happy Giant – they wanted me to share that they have just put out an update to the game plus they will have another one in a week that addresses the game controls.  Also, they assured me that “if you keep playing there is a decent amount of variety in the enemies and bosses.”  Sounds good to me, so I’ll keep plugging away.]