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Hazumi (3DS) artwork

Hazumi (3DS) review

"Eat your heart out, Mazda!"

Randomly browsing for digital titles to purchase is a pain already, so it becomes even tougher when you come across one, like Hazumi, that explains itself in the straightest way possible and accompanied with easily distinguishable screenshots... Wait, what? How can one have doubts about a title with a tried and true concept, a cute and simple 2D pixel style, and promises of a 100-plus challenging stages? Well, if there's one thing everyone who traversed any download service, like Xbox Live, PSN, Steam, and the Apple App Store, should know is that, when almost anything is allowed to be sold, you're going to have a huge ratio of low-quality products on display.

Is the game's first impression really that ambiguous in terms of quality? I'll let you decide: Hazumi allows you to control a small, bouncy ball, and the goal of every stage, most being the size of the top 3DS' screen, is to clear tiles that are the same color as the ball. So, wanna download this over Shovel Knight and Shantae? Now, the main catch with your ball is how you can only control horizontal movement, while it moves vertically of its own will. This does add a layer of challenge, but the first stages might trouble some into thinking there's not a whole lot going on with the game. It's typical to give players a rundown of its basics, and Hazumi does so by introducing blocks that change ball color, blocks you need to push with the appropriate color, and so on. But the game does this in the course of ten stages, which are bare minimum and end extremely quick. Even when one-hit kill saws debut in stage six, they offer little danger.

However, all's well once the beginning stages are done, as we see the Poland-based developer's work is incomparable to easily slapped-together junk with a price tag, due to solid, smart effort put into completing the stages. Saws, along with what appears to be steel crushers that open and close at intervals, play a prominent and dangerous role shortly after they're introduced. Saws, for example, are sometimes encased inside a maze of colored tiles, and one tiny mistake can cause a restart, not to mention a reminder for your folly with the saw partially painted with the ball's color. Steel crushers are more in-your-face, often times making you go through a multitude, or more nerving, making it past a corridor where they're planted in the floor and ceiling, thus having to time the intervals just right. And when you thought it couldn't get harder: blocks that discharge air.

There's infinite tries and no forced timer to contend with, so gamers can take a leisurely approach to each stage... at first. See, there's a three-star rating system incorporated into Hazumi, based around how fast each stage is completed. Optional, right? Way off. In order to gain access to a new set of stages, one must obtain a total of ten stars to unlock them, and it's not a typical, even number, like five or ten, but four stages. There's no alternative mode or difficulty setting to switch this choice off, either, meaning if you want a stress-free experience, you'll need to look elsewhere for that. And while star collecting isn't harsh, there's enough worry room to encourage players to give it their best and think up clever ways to complete a stage faster.

Now, if you think winning a three-star rating is going to be as easy as moving once a stage begins, then you're not giving this game enough credit. That adds into the final verdict, but simply "going for it" on stages with elaborate designs won't work every time, like a particular level that tasks with going through a small maze made up of push blocks, where a miscalculation can block your path. Breaking tiles the standard way, by waiting for the ball to make a vertical "reset" once it hits the top or bottom of a level won't do you any favors, as well. You'll have to perform tricks, such as hitting the sides of tiles as the ball vertically moves through the stage to save time, and also prompt quicker resets by hastily gravitating towards blocks near the center.

Executing these maneuvers are harder than they sound, since most stages sprinkle a good balance of one-hit kill saws and crushers around the tiles. This is where most of your deaths come from, as skillfully and quickly hitting tiles, while also rushing for a faster reset, requires the ball to come severely close to the hazards, and it doesn't help that the collision detection is really strict, the latter being one of the few qualms I have with Hazumi. The title plays mind games, too, like enticing you to hit a color change block or a detonation block just because they're in your path, but doing so can make the rest of a stage untouchable due to all the bomb blocks going off and the fact there might not be another color tile. Add in warps to the party, especially with some being tossed into mazes, and your mind might freeze for a second trying to comprehend the layout.

Suffice it to say, the three-star rating system helps in adding a dimension that might've been lost if a carefree approach was chosen. With challenges, simple, cute graphics, and catchy music that I feel matches the quality of Nintendo-produced soundtracks of yesteryear, Hazumi should keep one entertained for a few hours, with emphasis on "few". I enjoyed the game, and even with the star system and there being just over a hundred levels, I still completed it at around four to five hours. I can't really be mad that the devs didn't make more stages, since I can imagine a small team creating that many thoughtful maps can be a strain. To their credit, there's an optional, easy to use stage creator where you can save up to 12 maps, though it's a shame you can't share any. Regardless, for a game about a ball going through a series of maps, Hazumi succeeds in delivering a charming, fun experience that shouldn't be glossed over in the eShop.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (January 12, 2015)

Regardless of my thoughts on the first two games, I genuinely hope No More Heroes 3 is a good game.


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