Posted: April 25
Ninja's do leave a mark it seems. Well, at least the ones we've seen in Klei Entertainment's side-scrolling stealth flavored platformer, Mark of the Ninja, in which players assume the role of a silent Ninja assassin, ya know, not the evil kind, but the kind that's on a meaningful crusade. Anyway, the game was initially released through Xbox Live Arcade back in September 2012, with a PC version following about a month later.
Don’t expect Mark of the Ninja to allow you to defend yourself if you fail at sneaking past soldiers, as this game has a solid focus on stealth. It does give you the option to fight back against your enemies if you are caught, however nine times out of ten you will most likely come out the loser. I did find it rather odd however that your character, the ninja, would use his sword to kill his enemies when undetected but would start using his arms and legs when faced with up to three gun wielding baddies at a time. It’s obviously a game design choice to cut down on action and punish you for failing, but I still found it distracting.
The premise is actually quite riveting story and it keeps you going. Sure it's a classic ninja tale, but who would say 'no' to a cool ninja tale? The storytelling is done by offering well-animated 2D cut-scenes between levels. The artists and animators who brought these cinematics (and the 2D character models) to life did an excellent job. The in-game dialogue is brief and to the point. Your clan has been crippled and your Master was captured, so you have to head out and rescue him. That's about it. Of course, things get a bit more exciting later on, but suffice it to say, Mark of the Ninja has a surprisingly satisfying plot structure for a platform game.
Moving around the game's environments is great fun. While a 2D side scroller at its core, Mark of the Ninja allows backtracking and climbing of the environments’ walls which gives a lot of freedom in deciding how you could make your way past enemies. It was extremely satisfying when I eventually pulled off the perfect getaway, and the frequent checkpoints that occurred prevented me from being frustrated. The gameplay flows really well and can leave you feeling rather accomplished. Killing a room full of guards and hiding their bodies in the sewers in which you attacked them from, and then seeing their buddies walk in and look confused was a highlight for me.
The game awards points to the player depending on how well each level is played. Extra points are awarded if you locate certain artifacts that are scattered throughout each area. The points you receive can be utilized for upgrading the ninja's skills. Upgrades include unlocking various additional abilities such as new execution moves or other moves such as stronger punches, kicks etc.
The ninja you play as doesn’t speak, but the rest of the characters do. The dialogue is your typical ninja affair, with the words “power” and “consequences” being used like they’re going out of style, but it’s solid and when combined with the art design you really start to care about the other characters in the game. The ambient noises that you hear throughout the game are really well thought out as well. The further you are away from an enemy the more muffled their voice is, and the change in your footsteps depending on what location you’re in has a great emphasis on it, which keeps you guessing if you’re taking the best stealth approach or if there’s a quieter way around.
Overall, you might say this is one of the most enjoyable platformers I've played in recent times. Mark of the Ninja is a really nice surprise and definitely one of the best indie games I've ever played. There's not much I can criticize about it, other than the fact that it leaves no options for those who wish to resort to pure action during challenges. But if you're a ninja, what would you do? Jump into the fray, guns blazing? No that's not the ninja way.
Be sure to check out Nerd House Gaming
for more reviews!