XBLIG Review: Eat my Shuriken and Die

As online multiplayer has grown exponentially in recent history, I miss the “good ol’ days” – kicking back on the couch with a few friends for some late night gaming action with my favorite carbonated beverage and bag of chips.  Nothing quite replicates the countless late nights I spent as a youngster blistering my thumbs playing Turtles in Time or Secret of Mana.  Eat my Shuriken and Die hearkens back to the glory days of social couch gaming, but doesn’t capture the most important aspect of these games – fun.

FlowersFX’s Eat my Shuriken and Die is very similar to Super Smash Bros. or the newly released Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale…in concept anyway.  In the aforementioned titles, two to four famous characters are thrown into a small one screen arena, complete with platforms and pitfalls, and duke it out until all other players are knocked out using kicks and punches, special attacks, and various items and weapons strewn across the battlefield.  These games are meant to be social experiences and are often more fun when others are present but can also be played solo for those times when you don’t have your buddies around.  Unfortunately, the developer has taken this winning formula and stripped it of its key elements.

Games should be fun.  To put it bluntly, Eat my Shuriken and Die is not fun.  The longer I played, the more I scratched my head at some of the odd design decisions FlowersFX made.  Characters can’t kick or punch and don’t have special moves: All kills must be performed by throwing either a shuriken or an axe which are picked up in the level.  This is an absolutely bizarre decision and is a huge nuisance to jump around picking up weapons as the only means of killing another character.  Availability of items is limited to one weapon per character and only one item obtainable at a time. This, coupled with the absence of hand to hand combat, and you fail to have the hectic item snatching nature that makes Smash Bros. so much fun.

Only one level in the game had noticeable level traps or pitfalls so matches can take a lifetime to complete.  Items inexplicably slide across the screen even if they’re on a flat surface and there are only 4-5 power-ups in the game, most of which do little to assist you.  The core mechanics aren’t broken in any way, but running around a stage picking up one of two weapons to throw at your opponent as the only method of victory is not what I consider to be enjoyable.

There’s no cake here…

In this modern era of gaming, the one thing that Shuriken gets right – in-person social gaming – is also its biggest flaw.  This is a multiplayer game, and when I say that I mean that you cannot play this game without at least one other person present.  There is no single player experience against bots or online features allowing you to play anyone outside of your local Xbox.  Luckily for me, I had a friend who was willing to help me test out the game, but for people who don’t have somebody to play with – you’re SOL.  Multiplayer-only games hugely benefit from an online component and its exclusion is unacceptable in this day and age.

Who are you?!?!?

Outside of solid, fun gameplay, the most important component of the platform brawler sub-genre is recognizable or interesting characters.  Ever since we were kids, we wanted to know who would win in a fight between Pikachu and Kirby or Dante and Raiden and these games gave us those answers.  Unfortunately, you won’t find any answers or comparably epic battles in Eat my Shuriken and Die – unless you happen to be one of the developers whose caricatures appear to be featured in the game.  In total, there are eight characters to use but only cosmetic differences exist between them.

That’s not to say all is bad here.  The level design is varied with nine different levels, and the graphics (outside of the character models) are colorful and pleasant to look at.  Maybe it’s just me, but I got a strange Simpson’s vibe from the character models that just don’t fit with the rest of the game.  Another area that Eat my Shuriken shines in briefly is the music.  The upbeat old-school chiptunes are a blast to listen to for the first few times and really fit the tone of the game, but begin to grind on you once you realize there are only a few songs in the game.  Regrettably, the same attention wasn’t given to the sound effects and voicework which end up entirely forgettable and overpowered by the music.

Eat my Shuriken and Die is the first brawler I’ve checked out on the XBLIG scene and if it’s any indication of the state of the genre for this platform, it may be the last.  This game is the Danny Devito to Super Smash Bros’ Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Now, most people would point out that Super Smash Bros. is the pinnacle of competitive brawlers, but Eat my Shuriken and Die doesn’t compare favorably to lesser titles such as XBLA’s Small Arms or even the formerly free PSN game Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic.  The amount of content is limited  –  to be expected with a $1 game – but there are plenty of free games out there that offer a lot more.  The real deal-breaker here is lack of any sort of single player experience.  The game is unplayable without at least one friend present and a good friend wouldn’t make a friend play this game.

Final Rating: 4.0/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On:
 Xbox 360 (XBLIG)
Time to Complete: N/A, completely dependent on your desire to continue playing
Gamerscore Earned: N/A
Purchase Price: A review copy was provided by FlowersFX
Current Price: 80 MSP ($1)
Recommended Purchase Price: Free – 80 MSP ($1)
Why You Should Buy It: You’ll be supporting an indie developer
Why You Shouldn’t Buy It: It’s not very fun to play

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About Josh Campbell