Sushi Mania
| Sushi Mania

Thanks to Britain's burgeoning cosmopolitan middle class, the sushi takeaway has become almost as ubiquitous as the Italian restaurants and the coffee shops that line the streets of every UK city. However, to many the idea of munching raw fish and impacted rice held together with a seaweedy skin remains odd or even gag-inducing, no matter how much those TV dietitians drone on about the benefits of Omega 3 and a low fat lifestyle.

Yet whether you're a fan of the classic Japanese snack or not, you're unlikely to be offended by Sushi Mania. Okay so you play the game as the eponymous egg roll, but the gutting and filleting of fish doesn't feature heavily. Instead, Sushi Mania plumps for an anime-influenced look that's cute enough to turn slavering rottweilers into docile puppies.

Using the '4' and '6' keys, you roll your sushi character around a platform-filled landscape: '5' makes him jump. In each level, you need to collect coins, mini sushi babies that follow you around, and ingredients for making sushi.

Collecting enough ingredients unlocks new levels on the main map screen while coins are used to buy your way through gates that bar your way between groups of levels. The levels themselves are slices of side-on 2D roll 'n' jump/platform gaming, and each is liberally scattered with bumpers, trampolines and air currents that keep your nigiri roll bouncing about the place.

One of Sushi Mania's most interesting features is that many of the levels have multiple end points which lead to other routes through the map. You won't be able to reach most of these until you've unlocked new characters however.

Every one of the characters is represented by a different type of sushi-related dish and each has varying stats that determine how high you can jump, how heavy the sushi is and how much bashing you can take. Other than the various sushi-slinging obstacles, each level is also packed with enemies and dangerous obstacles. Collecting sushi ingredients restores your health, so Sushi Mania isn't too unforgiving.

For every handful of levels, there's a boss level that sees you pitched mano e mano against a unique enemy. Completing these unlocks mini-games that are played separately from the main levels, and are accessible from the game menu. There are six in total, but they're not free to play. Each play costs 20 gold (the same gold collected within the levels) but performing well in the mini-games will see you make far more gold than you put in. They use the same sushi-rolling mechanic as the main level, but see you doing very specific tasks such as collecting gold or avoiding pits.

So, the mix of a non-linear level structure and satisfying unlockable characters and mini-games makes for a compelling overall package, especially when all those missing unlockables are clear from the main menu.

But Sushi Mania isn't quite as perfect as a well balanced mix of wasabi and soy sauce (not forgetting a side dish of pickled ginger that makes such a great partner to the real-life dish). Your character's movements and the scrolling of the level aren't as smooth as they could be. In a standard platform game this might not even be noticed, but when you're constantly leaping about the place at break-neck pace, the difference becomes more apparent.

To add to this, the controls aren't entirely responsive either. This is mitigated somewhat as you unlock, and get used to, more advanced characters, but alongside the lack of that silky smoothness, Sushi Mania's action is left feeling ever so slightly clunky.

Part of the reason for these slightly sniffy negative criticisms is we can't help, in passing, comparing Sushi Mania to SolaRola. One of our favourite games of 2007, SolaRola boasts the complete slick feeling and physics that Sushi Mania lacks. It certainly has plenty of speed though - Sushi Mania could give Sonic the Hedgehog a run for his money in terms of pure speed, so let's not get too bogged down by niggles. Sushi Mania is a feature-rich and interesting package that's well worth a round of chopstick-clacking applause.

Sushi Mania

Cute and compelling in equal measure, Sushi Mania's impressive selection of unlockables mean there's more than a mouthful of fun to be had here