Title: Mark of the Ninja
Developer(s): Klei Entertainment
Publisher(s): Microsoft Studios
Platform(s): [Reviewed: Xbox 360]
Release date: September 7, 2012
Genre(s): Action, stealth, and side-scrolling
Developed by Klei Entertainment, Mark of the Ninja is an amazing 2D platformer combining the stealth focus of Splinter Cell games, with the visual beauty of indie games.
In Mark of the Ninja, the gamers play the role of a deadly assassin forced to join hands with other assassins in a plot line that is somewhat bizarre. I mean, I’m sorry, but just the idea of assassin to me means “Don’t mess with us,” yet the assassins in this game are constantly getting messed with. It makes for a good game, but it also makes the enemies seem a lot dumber than they should be.
During Mark of the Ninja, players must sneak through a series of environments, via air ducts and sewer grates, to reach the end of the level, all while perfectly maneuvering through the line of visibility and invisibility; light and darkness. Along the way they face guards, turrets, light beams, and vertical climbing all while having to manage both visibility and noise levels.
Gameplay in Mark of the Ninja is interestingly fun. 2D platforming is not normally this reviewers bag – baby – but while playing this game it is so well-developed and the controls are smooth enough that any perceived difficulty in adjusting is hardly noticeable.
Using a bevy of hiding spots, from behind pottery, inside a doorway, or even right above the enemy, levels become a proverbial playground; a deadly version of hide and seek. Weapon choices include insanely accurate throwing knifes, a grappling hook ; used to reach well placed ledges and noise makers, all of which are useful for certain situations as distracting guards may be the only way to reach the end of the level or get out of a tight spot.
Since this game is all about stealth and well-timed moves. It’s very hard, if not impossible, to kill a guard by brute force alone and since you get points for stealth and assassin like moves , you probably don’t want to do that anyway. Hiding a body, having a well-timed kill, avoiding confrontation and not raising an alarm in certain sections of the game, will all award you higher points at the end of the level.
Visually, this game is a mixture of the appealing and unappetizing. It has all the markings of an indie game as it looks flash-based, as should be expected of a 2D platformer, the game looks very one-dimensional. There’s a background and a foreground with very little distinction between the two; both of which are negatives and positives, oddly enough. This isn’t one of those games that would benefit from trying to be real fancy about their graphics, in fact I think part of the appeal of Mark of the Ninja is that it looks handmade, focusing on simplicity and gameplay over wanting to wow you with looks. Not to say this game is ugly by any means, it isn’t, but it very much has the visually appeal of a flash game and you can take that how you want.
The visuals, however you like them, do integrate really well into gameplay. When enemies are out of visually view of the player, they aren’t on-screen. Instead, their footsteps, which would be normally audible, are visible in the form of audio waves. It’s a really neat effect and for those paying attention to the game. It’s also incredibly helpful to see what’s going on in the next room without actually being there.
Thinking critically about this game, there isn’t really any outstanding negative things that would be perceived as such across all forms of personal opinions and tastes. In fact my only qualm, or one of my only qualm’s, about this game is that this game is called the Mark of the Ninja, yet the main character is clearly modeled after western aesthetics. Yes, I understand the audience might identify with a more Aryan player model, but to me it’s the same as having Tom Cruise being the main character in the Last Samurai.
That aside, Mark of the Ninja is very enjoyable. It focuses on stealth without getting sidetracked or intimidated by players who want to take the brute force way through. It brings some intelligent thought into your next move and focuses on patience rather than speed. Anyone who likes stealth games, whether they be 2D, 3D or paper based, will enjoy this game.
Replay ability: 3/5
Overall Rating: 4/5