Close your eyes for a moment and picture the scene. You find yourself in the midst of an epic battle – the sound of swords hitting shields surrounds you in every direction, great warriors are displaying the courage and spirit of 1,000 men as they fall for their cause, some random guy is sprinting around with the sole purpose of cutting down particularly overgrown, perfectly square patches of grass… Hang on a second…
The Legend of Kusakari has you play the story of a brave hero, heading out onto the battlefield to defeat enemies – a typical fantasy scenario – except this time you'll be doing it by cutting down all the grass to make it a more comfortable surface for the actual soldiers to fight on. We like his style. The first thing you'll notice when starting up this game is that it isn't afraid to play on the humour of this situation. The introduction takes small digs at its own story ideas and the main theme features a lead trumpet that is rather wonderfully off key 50% of the time, which adds to the comedy of having a relatively underwhelming protagonist.
The idea is simple. There are over 50 levels to play through, each boasting a different layout full of grass, heroes and enemies. Your job is to cut every last blade of grass before your energy depletes to zero. Throughout the first few levels new skills are taught, helping you to gradually learn the controls and develop your own cutting-edge techniques (pun absolutely intended). Upon completion of each level you will see the time it took you to complete it along with the rank that your time merits. The rank awarded becomes important further down the line, but we'll come to that shortly.
The controls have been kept nice and simple and are constantly displayed on the touchscreen should you forget. You move around with the Circle Pad as you might expect, a simple tap of the B button swings your scythe and as you progress you are shown that holding either L or R enables you to sprint, whilst pressing A can unleash a more powerful spin cut. The spin cut's power correlates with your scythe's current level, which increases as you cut down more grass, and decreases when the spin cut is used often. A useful tip to keep in mind when moving around is that you are able to fall down from higher surfaces to lower levels, which allows for much quicker travel through the game's trickier stages.
There are two types of grass, each with variations. Firstly, the green grass – the biggest concern a knight in shining armour ever has to face! Every single piece of green grass must be cut down to complete a level and it is found in three stages of toughness. At first you'll only see light green grass, which is cut down with a single stroke of your scythe. As you progress you'll come across slightly darker grass which takes two hits and then much longer, very dark green grass that takes multiple hits or can be taken down with a levelled up spin cut. The second type will quickly become your best friend – the optional blue grass. Cutting a piece of blue grass restores one heart of your energy, whilst cutting the larger, glowing blue grass heals you completely. Making the best use of these is key to success and often planning a route based on their locations on the touchscreen's map is very helpful.
Health is lost in two ways, one of which is by bumping into the heroes and enemies that are fighting/travelling across the stages. These come in various forms such as slimes, dragons and men duelling. They move in regular patterns so trying to figure this out and keeping out of their path is a wise move. Your health also depletes by itself slowly over time, making long stretches void of blue grass quite a nervous place to be. Different surfaces make your energy fall at different rates – for example standing in sandy areas makes your energy fall fast so sprinting across them and finding the usual grass to stand on is essential.
The main story of the game should only take you a few short hours at most to complete, depending on how quickly you get the knack of it, but there are plenty of reasons to keep playing. Within the main game each level has an extra objective to complete – visible in the Greenthumb Almanac in the game's settings. These can be either completing the level without hitting anyone, without wasting a single swing, or without healing. Also after the game's completion a bonus chapter is unlocked with levels only being available if you have achieved a sufficient amount of S ranks – a hefty challenge.
An endless mode is available from the main menu where you are placed in a rectangular stage with the objective of cutting down as many pieces of grass as possible. The grass slowly replenishes and blue grass occasionally appears in random places making it a frantic, always sprinting, always blue grass-hunting affair. Online leaderboards are a very welcome addition, enabling you to compete with other players' scores.
You may have noticed the intentional similarities to a certain, popular Nintendo franchise in the game's logo and appearance, which is likely to divide opinion among many. Whether this is a positive or a negative thing is unimportant, in the end, because The Legend of Kusakari can stand proudly in its own right as a highly enjoyable, nicely polished puzzle adventure. Besides, who doesn't find enjoyment in hacking down every last bit of grass in Hyrule anyway?
Addictive gameplay, along with great humour and charming character make The Legend of Kusakari a very pleasant experience, and when the only downside is a want for more story and more chapters to play through, you know you're onto a winner.