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Mark of the Ninja Review
developer: Klei Entertainment
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Sep 07, 12
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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, with a PC version following about a month later.
Quick like the cat...
Clearly, all ninjas hate the light.
The game opens with the main character trying to fend off an attack on his clan. Groups of well-armed troops assail the clan, ninjas are being killed left and right, but luckily for our hero, he is assisted by a sexy female character (also a ninja) - frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way. With her help, he makes it out in one piece. Indeed, it's simplicity itself. And why not? One would argue that so many game developers try to outrace each other by giving us over-elaborate premises and that usually end up being tedious and mediocre at best. This just isn't the case with Mark of the Ninja. It's basic tale, but told and presented in a very cool and slick manner.
The premise is actually quite riveting story and it keeps you going. Sure it's a classic a ninja tale, but c'mon, who would say 'no' to a cool ninja tale. Plus, the storytelling was done with taste and style, offering well-animated 2D cut-scenes between levels. We applaud the efforts of the artists and animators who brought these cinematics (and the 2D character models) to life. The in-game dialogue is brief and to the point. Your clan has been crippled and your Master got captured, so you have to head out and rescue him. That's about it. Of course, things get a bit more exciting later on. Suffice it to say, Mark of the Ninja has a surprisingly satisfying plot structure for a platform game.
The second thing you'll notice about this game is its incredibly straightforward gameplay. Each level contains a variety of challenges, which usually denote getting through well-guarded areas. There are several ways you can complete each of these sections. The most challenging, and by far the most fun, is slipping past sentries completely unnoticed. You can sneak and avoid detection by hiding behind various objects or lurking in dark doorways. The really enjoyable bit is creeping from cover to cover and taking out the guards without raising the alarm. Should you complete the area without being noticed, you'll be awarded with additional points.
By the way, the game gives points to the player depending on how well you play. 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.
Sorry, that was me!!!
Bloody dogs! Shuuut uuup!
Taking out enemies by assaulting them directly is never a good idea, although sometimes you can get away with it, if you're lucky. Usually though, if the guards notice you, they kill you almost instantly. If an alert guard suspects you are nearby, a countdown initiates and you have only a few seconds to take him down before he alerts everyone to your presence. One of the coolest things in Mark of the Ninja is the possibility of reaching your goal through a variety of routes, so you are not forced to take the linear path. This aspect makes the game even more challenging and for those who are after more points and more rewards, exploration is the best way to go. Search for every hidden object you can find, you won't regret it. Secret, bonus areas were also thrown in, giving you more obstacles to overcome and, naturally, a fitting reward if you pull through.
Overall, you might say this is one of the most enjoyable platformers we've experienced in recent times. Mark of the Ninja is a really nice surprise and definitely one of the best indie games we've tried this year. There's not much we 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.
Slick 2D graphics, addictive platformesque gameplay, highly rewarding experience altogether, well-incorporated stealth elements, solid premise;
Staying stealth is the only way to play this, little emphasis on action, but that's good, isn't it?
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