Julkaistu 16. huhtikuu.
The Rating System: Good refers to the obvious positive qualities, the Bad is reserved for nitpicks and gripes that don't necessarily ruin the experience, the Ugly is for the worst parts of the game, meant for serious consideration before purchase.
The gameplay is very unique. You're given a large map with hazards, enemies and tools, and 90% of the time, the way you complete the objective is completely up to you. Freedom is the name of the game here. You're given two items of your choice, a grappling hook and infinite throwing darts, but never do you feel overpowered. The darts are non-lethal, useful for distracting enemies or disabling certain map related objects like power lines. There are unlockable suits for your ninja that change your playstyle drastically. Some take away killing items (such as spiked caltrop traps) in favor of extra distraction items (like smoke bombs and fire crackers). Some take away your sword, giving you a non-lethal takedown attack, but disable bullet time effects and your farsight ability (which grants you the ability to peek through walls). These suits can shake up the gameplay significantly even once you get bored of it, or further enhance whatever chosen playstyle you've picked. The level design is extremely well done, every map feels different and grants you as many options as your imagination can cook up for how to beat the enemies, or even AVOID them. That's right, you don't even have to kill anyone if you don't want to, and you get major bonuses for it rather than act like a stereotypical Hollywood ninja and go on a slaughter fest (though you still CAN, you'd then have to cleverly hide the body - or pose it in a manner that frightens other enemies in order to make up the lost points from the no-kill bonus). At the end of each level, you're graded based on score, number of optional objectives completed (which are fun, understandable and in no way a sidetracking chore), and number or scrolls found. These grades give you points to spend on new techniques, such as one that lets you pull enemies through doors or down manholes for a silent insta-kill, or one that lets you string up guard corpses to lamposts in order to terrify his coworkers. The aforementioned scrolls are the game's way of livening up the world outside of cutscenes, giving little mini-backstories to characters and enriching the lore. There's also a hidden challenge scroll in every level, taking you to a room sans enemies with a very smartly designed puzzle to complete using the game's mechanics. These were so much fun for me that I searched like a rabid dog for each and every one of the challenge scrolls. I absolutely love the gameplay of Mark of the Ninja.
The game's style and cutscenes remind me a lot of Samurai Jack, giving me an almost nostalgic feeling. The animation is smooth and stylish, matching the sort of Saturday Morning cartoon story perfectly. Though there's mature themes here and there, the cutscenes and action within the gameplay itself are all just over the top enough that you can still take it seiously. It hits the same kind of balance of Samurai Jack between over the top action and serious theming that I can see this fitting right at home on a late night Cartoon Network special. The voice acting is quite good, very fitting and enjoyable, it's just such a shame that they weren't given very many scenes to flesh out their characters somewhat, which I will cover in the Ugly below. The music is memorable and perfectly timed with your actions within the game. Though they often reuse tracks, they're very well made and fitting tracks, so you'll likely never feel tired of any given one. It does its job effectively, complementing the gameplay and its cutscenes.
Some of the unlockable abilities in the game are of questionable use, such as a spin-kick that
knocks out guards who have spotted you. Unless you're playing on Normal difficulty, guards will insta-kill you before you can perform it. You're also likely to restart when you've been spotted, as having a guard raise the alarm takes a heavy tax on your score of -800 points, punishing you harshly for making mistakes. If you're trying to aquire more techniques and tools, the reset button becomes your heavily abused friend very quickly, as you'll rather be reset a minute or two back rather than sacrifice precious upgrade points. The game's intentionally dark style often makes it hard to distinguish your character from the background, especially if you're wearing black colored suits. I've sometimes had to reset simply because I lost track of my character and wandered into a guard, against a hazard that gave too much noise, or into the light causing me to get spotted. These moments can be remedied by turning up the ingame brightness or wearing brighter colored suits, but the former kind of defeats the aesthetic they were going for, and the latter could potentially limit your playstyle, since as said before, each non-default suit has a weakness along with a buff, making the standard ninja costume the most balanced of them all. The story, despite the praises I sung in the Good, is mostly window dressing that can be glossed completely over in favor of the gameplay. The cutscenes never last more than two or three minutes, which is likely simply due to Indie developer budgets (as well as not wanting to distract the player from their game for too long, but I digress).
I never found any flaws that ruined the game, but this section is meant for flaws big enough to consider before purchase, and there are a couple worth mentioning. The game uses a checkpoint system: Pass over a given spot, game saves for you to return to it at any time. This is nice, but the placement is very odd at times. Sometimes it'd save one place after another, while others I could be reset a good 10 to 15 minutes of progress because I died or got spotted, which gets very frustrating in the later missions. The game is fun enough that it never became a deal breaker for me or caused me to quit in frustration, but it's worth mentioning as one of the game's "major" flaws. Here is where my previous comment about fleshing out the characters comes into play: The game's quite short on actual content beyond what you as the player decide to come up with (things like no-kill runs, completionist runs, slaughter-runs, player based things like that). It has about 12 levels and 1 additional level if you buy the game's only DLC, which is good for its price of 15 bucks for the game and its DLC, but I really enjoyed the story despite how thin it was and craved for more. The main character's movement can be very sticky at times, where you'll be despirately trying to hop off of a wall and end up jumping onto another one, or where you're trying to climb down a ledge and you end up jumping off of it into a guard's field of vision. It hampers the flow in corridors and vents, and can cause a couple restarts. A lot of actions are mapped to the B button (I don't recall what it is on the keyboard, I never used it). Sometimes I'd be trying to pick up a corpse off of the floor to drag it into a hiding place before anyone notices and I'd end up repeatedly ducking into a cover spot, wasting time and causing someone to eventually come over to investigate. It was pretty annoying, but again, not something I believe really breaks the game enough to be considered something worth neglecting a purchase.
Final verdict: 10/10
I award perfect scores for games that aren't flawless, but whose flaws never take away from how fun the game is, or make you wish to stop playing. Nothing is flawless afterall, and Mark of the Ninja is so much fun that despite its short content, you'll be playing for hours and hours, finding new ways to approach its objectives and enemies, experimenting with its gameplay, and drinking in that nostalgic Cartoon Network aesthetic. I absolutely adore this game, and cannot recommend it enough.