When the word Ninja is uttered in polite company, a few words spring to mind. Deadly is definitely one of them. Ninja's are definitely deadly. Stealthy, too. Ninja's are undoubtedly stealthy. Deadly and Stealthy. But now, thanks to Mini Ninjas
, we can add "cute" and "tiny" to those adjectives!
is a 3D action platform game that introduces a few elements of the RPG genre to create a compellingly cute, and highly polished gaming experience. The game is aimed squarely at the pre-teen market (have marketing types started calling this group pre-nagers yet?), and the difficulty level is set accordingly; but this ageing gamer found it extremely addictive thumb-candy, if not too challenging.
Our hero is called Hiro - a nice touch, it's a perfectly legitimate Japanese boy's name, either on its own, or as a short version of Hiroshi or Hiromasa. But it's the perfect name for the HERO of a game, or a book, like Snowcrash
for instance. Hiro is the smallest, youngest Ninja of his village, but when the rest of the Ninjas go missing, he is pressed into service to go rescue them, and defeat whoever captured them. He does this by using a combination of ninja skills and Kuju magic.
The game involves, as you might imagine, creeping around a vast beautiful, stylised 3D environment, taking out enemies using a variety of ninja moves. Navigation is suitably easy, pressing "X" does most things, and the levels are designed to be challenging without being difficult. They branch in a vaguely non-linear manner, while always keeping you on route. There are hidden areas, but with subtle markers which are entirely possible to overlook… a perfectly judged difficulty level. Some areas are separated by water, and these can be reached by converting your hat (which also acts as a basic shield from arrows) into a boat, you can sometimes swim to these areas too, but swimming quickly drains your character's energy meter.
Hiro's ninja skills extend to hitting things with a stick, or throwing shuriken them. But as Hiro teams up with his ninja friends, you get to make use of their ninja skills, which in certain circumstances are more apt for a given combat situation. Hiro's best friend, Futo, is huge and wields a mighty hammer (there probably is some technical ninja term for it, but I am not familiar with it) which is great for tackling larger opponents.
Suzume has a flute, and apart from entertaining herself at band camp, I have not been able to find much use for her. But she is fast, and stealthy, which might be useful for players with a different style to mine.
Tora has Shuko: hand claws. He thinks he's a tiger, and can run fast for long distances. This could have been an asset, but it turns out not to be.
Kunoichi has a spear and, like Suzume, I found her to be a poor substitute for using Hiro; are these characters maybe included as a sop to female gamers?
Shun, however, is a very useful addition to your team. His weapon, a bow, is superb for ranged attacks, and sniping a few opponents with it before embarking in combat can make all the difference.