What happens when you take six kids, equip them with ninja powers and send them across feudal Japan on an epic adventure of fun and exploration? You get IO Interactives’ Mini Ninja- a game as good as any Pixar animation and just as cute.
If the cell-shaded graphics didn’t give it away, then the fact that ‘killing’ your enemy results in the release of cute baby animals should be enough to hint that this is a game for the youngest of all gamers. However beneath the sweet exterior there is enough depth and competent gameplay that even the most hardened veterans will find it tough to refuse the charming, mini ninjas.
Back in the era of the Nintendo 64, it wasn’t uncommon to see even adults enjoying the ‘open world’ platforming adventure the likes of Zelda and Banjo Kazooie. In fact this was the height of console gaming and somewhere along the way jaded PC aficionados have come along and sullied their good name. Mini Ninjas is a return to form for these old games, incorporating large open levels, collectibles and leveling up.
The premise is simple: Master ninja, who lives on Ninja Mountain, found six abandoned babies and taught them the way of; the ninja. Three of them have been sent out to explore an evil presence- and never came back.
This is where the player steps in, assuming control of not one but eventually all six of the mini ninja using each skill and ability for different tasks. The depth of balancing magic and heavy skills over the mesmerizing flute or swift claw attacks belies the innocent nature of the game and if you are still not convinced the recent demo on Live is well worth checking out.
Other recent releases like Trine have dabbled with the same ‘all in one method’ of character control whereby you can switch on the fly to whomever you want; and if this is the future of single player- it adds further depth to an otherwise simple game.
It seems IO and Edios has put a lot of care into Mini Ninjas setting it apart from other titles on the XBOX and refreshing the tried and true themes of ninjitsu. Although cliché, every dialogue and battle will elicit a smile or laugh as this is the perfect game for the whole family. Once levels are cleared they can be explored before moving on, discovering all the hidden flowers and items. Some of the deeper levels of control may pass over the heads of the mini gamer but this is where older players will find something for them.
Movies and cut scenes are gorgeous and gentle and it is no surprise that gameplay looks just as good. Accessible across all platforms including Wii, mini ninjas is a guilty pleasure to play.
With the plethora of triple A ‘hardcore’ titles due out before Christmas, Mini Ninjas may well be overlooked when it drops in September. For those too young or simply for the young at heart, Mini Ninjas is definitely worth a look, proving; good things do come in small packages.
1. Beautiful cell shaded graphics
2. Gentle approach to violence
3. Deep role playing elements
4. Large Open worlds
1. A full game may become boring and repetitive
2. Overlooked by more seasoned gamers
3. Lack of combat depth
4. Platforming elements
Release Date: 8th September, 2009
Previewed and Written by Ian Crane