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Sayonara Umihara Kawase + Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . While it's not exactly Bionic Commando, fans of Nathan "Rad" Spencer's grappling hook arm will find a lot to like about Sayonara Umihara Kawase +. Unfortunately, some of its quirky ideas are undone by repetitive levels and a frustrating learning curve. Gamers that stick through the bad times will discover a fun and rewarding puzzler for the PS Vita. Rating: 64%
Sayonara Umihara Kawase +
Sayonara Umihara Kawase + Sayonara Umihara Kawase + Sayonara Umihara Kawase + Sayonara Umihara Kawase +
  • Review Score:

  • B-
For a brief moment a few years ago, it looked like Capcom had successfully resurrected Bionic Commando. While the big budget 3D reboot was met with mixed reviews, many gamers fell in love with the two Rearmed adventures, which mimicked the simple side-scrolling fun of the original. But alas, Nathan "Rad" Spencer's return was short-lived. Not even killing Hitler was enough to keep the franchise going into the next generation.

If you're one of those people who yearns for another go at Nathan's bionic arm, then might I recommend Sayonara Umihara Kawase +, a quirky new platforming puzzle game for the PS Vita. It may not have gun-wielding soldiers and armored vehicles, but the basic gameplay will be familiar to anybody who spent the time and effort to save Super Joe.

Much like Bionic Commando, Sayonara Umihara Kawase + is an update to a game released more than twenty years ago. The original came out on Nintendo's Super Famicom, but never made its way out of Japan. It is now part of this brand new PS Vita package, which features both the original game and the modern sequel.

You play Umihara Kawase, a traveling sushi chef that uses an elastic fishing hook to traverse the treacherous terrain. She is capable of swinging from platform-to-platform, and reel in big fish that can later be used to create delicious sushi rolls. With the exception of aiming at the ground and snagging fish, Umihara's trusty device is almost exactly the same as Nathan's grappling hook arm.

Her adventure is split up into a few dozen smaller stages, each with an exit and a hidden treasure to locate. A lot of the levels will have enemy fish to avoid, but most of the challenge comes from the demanding platforming elements. It's not as simple as walking left and right, because the game will constantly demand daring mid-air hooks and perfectly timed jumps. There's very little room for error, something that will likely prove divisive with players.

Sayonara Umihara Kawase + (PS Vita)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Some levels have more than one exit, which will open up a new batch of levels to solve. There are also bosses to fight, something I wasn't expecting from this style of puzzle game. Unfortunately, these fights are the worst part of the game, as they rely on trial and error to save the day.

The good news is that players can access a tutorial video that shows the solution to each stage, so players won't be stuck for long. As somebody who spends a lot of time complaining that puzzle games don't give enough hints, I'm excited to see this step in the right direction. But these tutorial videos go a little too far and leave nothing to the player. You can give hints without spelling out the entire puzzle.

As I mentioned earlier in the review, Sayonara Umihara Kawase also comes with the original 1994 Super Famicom game. This 16-bit version may offer different levels to complete, but you'll recognize many of the enemies and obstacles from the sequel. It's also fun to go back and see how the developers have tweaked the gameplay throughout the years. While I preferred the modern take, I can see people siding with the original's responsive gameplay.

No matter which version you go with, Sayonara Umihara Kawase takes some getting used to. Hooking the platforms can be a little tricky, and there's a steep learning curve when it comes to pulling off the expert moves you need to beat the game. The modern sequel makes the gameplay a little more forgiving, but it still has a long way to go.

Sayonara Umihara Kawase + (PS Vita)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Although the levels are bite-sized, they are long enough to become frustrating after repeated failures. There's often no safety net, so making a simple mistake at the end of the stage means repeating the whole thing over from the start. The abundance of cheap deaths only compounds the problem. Sayonara Umihara Kawase is the kind of game that's a lot of fun ... until it isn't.

The visuals are simple and colorful, but not diverse enough. You'll see a lot of backgrounds endlessly repeated and the same platforms from one level to the next. The two games don't have enough unique ideas to make them constantly compelling, and I suspect many gamers won't be able to get beyond the frustrating learning curve.

Faults and all, Sayonara Umihara Kawase + is a fun platformer that mixes the best elements from Bionic Commando and sushi. And with two different games to play through, this package offers a lot of content. It doesn't always hit its mark, but fans of whipping around complicated levels with nothing more than a grappling hook will get a kick out of this PS Vita release.
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