Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mini Ninjas Demo Impressions

Mini Ninjas is an action platformer being developed by IO Interactive. The company is well known for making the Hitman series, but they have also worked on stuff like Kane & Lynch, and Freedom Fighters. So why would they suddenly make a cartoony action game? who knows, but it's a welcome change of pace, in my opinion. There aren't enough good action platformers nowadays.

The first thing I noticed about Mini Ninjas when I started up the demo is how smooth the framerate was. Everything seemed to be chucking along at 60fps, and I didn't experience any slowdown at all. The graphics, while not technically superior, have a really nice art style to them, and everything looks very clean-cut. There's a sort of LittleBigPlanet style to the graphics, except maybe less crisp and more smooth. Much like LittleBigPlanet, the character designs, and the voice acting are all super-cute, as well. There's a certain amount of charm to everything in the game, and the animations are also nice and fluid.

Lets talk about the actual gameplay, though. Mini Ninjas is your standard beat em' up. The game plays like a simplified version of Ninja Gaiden, you swing your sword at dudes on screen, as well as shirukens and caltrops, and there's even various Ninjutsu you can use, including a fire technique, as well as a replacement technique, where you can pretty much possess an animal and use it to fight, or to find various collectibles.

Ah yes, what platformer wouldn't be complete without collectibles? The demo had a few different types. Tiny Statues (which didn't seem to do anything), Flowers (which you could use as an offering at various hidden shrines, as well as combining them to make potions), coins (for buying stuff, duh), and I suppose you could conciser the caged animals as a collectable, since it keeps track of how many you free.

There's a lot of variation in the gameplay as well, at one point you might be fighting a bunch of guys, at another point you might be wandering around enjoying the landscapes, or you could be fishing, you can level up your ninja and get new abilities, and since you're a ninja, there's even a stealth mechanic thrown in there. The three characters they give you in the demo all have different strengths and weaknesses, however, it isn't quite as dramatic as something like Trine or The Lost Vikings. All of this variation keeps the game interesting, so much so that I even went back and played through the demo a second time.

So far there's only 2 big problems that I have with the game. First, it seems too linear. The level I played in the demo had a few side paths you could take, and there's plenty of space that you can move between, but you're still just moving forward through the stage. I was hoping for an open world game, but so far it seems like this isn't one. The second problem is the difficulty. I played through the demo on the default difficulty first, Normal, and it turned out to be really easy. Then I turned the difficulty up to Hard, and it seemed more like what normal should have been. I understand the game is being made for kids, but I kind of wished they would make the game a little more challenging.

Overall, I really enjoyed the demo, and might give this a rental when it comes out. Be sure to look out for Mini Ninjas on the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, and DS when it's released in September.

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