Sushi Mushi is a new iOS game from Aspyr Media. It’s available now as a free Universal download from the App Store.
Sushi Mushi is an asynchronous competitive two-player puzzle game. Competing against random opponents or Facebook friends, players take it in turns to attempt to create “sushi rolls” on a grid. A sushi roll is a group of three or more pieces of sushi with either the same color or the same shape atop them. Rolls are matched by drawing a line starting from one piece of sushi and passing through at least two more adjacent pieces that match either or both of the conditions.
The player may also create “feed rolls” and “rob rolls” by fulfilling specific conditions — in the case of feed rolls, the player must match four pieces of sushi that are all the same color and include all four different shapes; in the case of rob rolls, the player must match four pieces of sushi that are all the same shape but all different colors. These special rolls provide the player with bonuses at the end of the round — feed rolls allow the player’s monster avatar to eat the sushi rolls they created, while rob rolls allow the player to steal completed rolls from their opponent, thereby depriving them of points.
Various “take-out boxes” appear during play with one-shot powerups inside that provide score bonuses or remove specific sushi bites from the board. Once the player has reached the “yellow belt” progression level by completing the initial tutorial, they also gain access to “specials,” which allow them to trigger special bonuses such as automatically highlighting feed and rob rolls or having additional time in which to complete a round. Specials are puchased using in-game currency, which can be acquired via in-app purchase as well as through completing objectives in normal play.
Between rounds, players are able to play “snack” games by themselves, which allows them to practice their sushi-matching skills. Participating in a “snack” game costs 50 in-game coins, but any “specials” used to help out are free, making it a good means for players to improve their pattern-spotting skills.
Sushi Mushi is well-presented, with endearing animation on the monster avatars and amusing sound effects. The background music is also entertaining, though will get tiresome after a few loops. It’s also a solid puzzle game, but arguably it’s a little too complex for the asynchronous, competitive “blitz” format it has adopted. It is difficult to spot the feed and rob rolls at a glance — downright impossible for color-blind players thanks to the reliance on color in both cases — and thus most games simply turn into a case of who can match the most in the 90-second time limit, in which case you might as well be playing a more well-established title like Bejeweled Blitz.
The most successful asynchronous puzzle games on iOS use simple-to-understand but hard-to-master mechanics rather than overcomplicating things — compare the difference in performance between Zynga’s Words with Friends and the more recent, more complex Gems with Friends, for example; the older, simpler title is still gaining users while the newer, more complex game is already in decline. The danger with Sushi Mushi is that there will be an obvious divide between those just playing for fun and more skilled players who are good at spotting the feed and rob rolls — joining the latter group will take a considerable amount of practice. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course — but while there will doubtless be some players who are happy to invest time into this game and learn its intricacies, it remains to be seen whether it will be able to maintain a strong audience over time or whether its “slow burn” nature will put off players looking for something with a little more immediacy.
A solid, addictive, competitive puzzler, but one whose relative complexity may discourage some players from sticking with.