Mini Ninjas


By: Tristan Clark    On: Xbox 360
Published: Thursday 3 Sep 2009 10:00 AM
 
 
 
Ad FeedbackAdvertisement

Who would have thought you could make a ninja cute? And yet that is exactly what we have here with Mini Ninjas, a sort of anti-Ninja Gaiden that shrinks everyone down and gives them big heads. But that doesn’t mean it’s all pink fluffy clouds and rainbows – these ninjas still pack quite a punch.

Mini Ninjas, in a nutshell, is a 3D platformer that mixes a hefty dose of Mario and Zelda with anything from Ratchet and Clank to Sonic. In fact, if you’re familiar with Zelda: Wind Waker, you’re off to a good start; like that game, Mini Ninjas combines a cute and kid-friendly aesthetic with a bucket load of gameplay depth. It’s this dichotomy that runs right through Mini Ninjas, and is the source of both its high and low points.

Let’s start with the plot. An ancient evil has returned to the land, so the wise old ninja master sends off his best students one by one to defeat it. However, none return, so it’s up to the last two ninjas remaining to sort things out.

The main character is Hiro (yes, just like the guy from Heroes), a young ninja with the unique ability to cast magic spells. Hiro is your average every-ninja, capable of sneaking, moving fast, wall-climbing, and all of that. From the start you’re joined by Futo, who’s really not the sneaking kind at all – he’s big and heavy, and very useful when you need to clear away enemies very quickly.

Together, you must set off to get to the bottom of the evil presence in the land. As the intro explains, this evil has been capturing innocent (and cute) animals and transforming them into mindless Samurai minions. These are the enemies you’ll be wading through for most of the game. In true Sonic style, when you defeat a Samurai, they turn back into their original fluffy animal.

This is cool to see in itself (and avoids the issue of people being killed, for the benefit of young people watching/playing!), but there’s also a gameplay side to it. One of Hiro’s powers is to inhabit the body of any animal around. Possess a rabbit, for example, and you can sneak around without baddies noticing you so easily. Get control of a bear, on the other hand, and you can plough through enemies with ease.

It’s a fun addition, but only one spell of many. Scattered throughout levels are hidden shrines that offer additional spells, which range from fireballs and lightning storms to camouflage and the ability to slow down time. You can call up a radial menu to select spells on the fly, but you’ll soon need to start configuring them in your inventory.

Speaking of inventories: there are a ton of items you can collect, from flowers to mushrooms to gold coins. Completists will have a field day here – it’s rather like Lego Star Wars in that regard. Most of the items have a purpose, thankfully – ginseng and the like can be combined (with purchased recipes) into potions that restore hit points or stamina.

Then there are the unique moves available to your ninjas. By holding down the appropriate button, you can – for example – line up multiple enemies as Hiro and instantly kill them all as he zips between them. Suzume, the third ninja you find, will instead play on her flute to mesmerise any bad guys around.

Oh yeah, and then there are a series of hats that, when you wear them, give you further special powers or buffs. You get your first hat at the start of the game, and it protects you from arrows and acts as a raft for periodic river adventures.

Combine all of the above with a plentiful array of button mashing moves and abilities, and you’ve got a heck of a lot to play with. All the ninjas you rescue along the way (who you can flick between at any point) just add to the options available. It’s great that there’s so much depth here to play with – it certainly nullified most of the repetition involved in beating up Samurai after Samurai. But on the other hand, when a game clearly designed to look kid-friendly uses nearly every single button on a modern controller, you’re going to run into trouble. I’m a bit concerned that younger players might just get frustrated or overwhelmed, but maybe I’m worried over nothing – kids these days are probably more dextrous with this sort of thing than me. It just seems like the developers could have designed the numerous gameplay systems with more simplicity in mind.

Complexity issues aside, this game simply looks and feels like it was made with care and attention. So much of it seems to scream “generic platformer”, only to woo you with a well thought-out special move combined with cute graphics. I initially didn’t think the little ninjas had much charisma, but by the end I was attached to their understated reactions to events. Oh, and they talk in short, cute snippets of Japanese, which is much less annoying than Sonic and his menagerie of badly voiced friends.

I’ve already mentioned the graphics, but here it is again: they’re cute, and they work. I kept thinking they should be cell-shaded, but maybe that’s been done to death. As they stand, the graphics are a nice change from “realistic” greys and browns – I always appreciate a bit of colour. The characters are all well-animated, perfectly in line with their cute appearance. This is complemented by the sound, a pleasant mixture of Eastern-themed music and funny sound effects. The enemy Samurai, in particular, are hilarious to listen to.

If your kid is after a solid platformer, Mini Ninjas is worth a look – if you think they can negotiate all the gameplay systems. Heck, if you’re into platform games yourself, most parts of this game could stand next to Mario and be far from ashamed. My only other complaint is a lack of any multiplayer option. Sure, the gameplay has been designed around one player swapping ninjas on the fly, but it would have been really cool to battle the bad guys with at least one other friend. Hey developers, how about a multiplayer co-op sequel?

I hear tell that a demo is out. Just like any Nintendo game, don’t think the cute graphics means the gameplay is basic – give this one a whirl and see if it can drag you away from your gritty first person shooters.


The Score

Mini Ninjas
"A very solidly built platformer."
8.2
Great
Rating: PG   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 30 Min

 

More You May Like

 

Comments (14)

You must be logged in to post comments.

or Register now!
Omg_a_kid_with_GTA
On Thursday 3 Sep 2009 4:54 PM Posted by Omg_a_kid_with_GTA
looks good
 
 
0
 
twisterjamz
On Thursday 3 Sep 2009 6:44 PM Posted by twisterjamz NZGamer.com VIP
played the demo on ps3 seemed like a cool game but i was hoping it would be on psn so i could get it off my uncle for free
 
 
0
 
SpawnSeekSlay
On Thursday 3 Sep 2009 7:10 PM Posted by SpawnSeekSlay NZGamer.com VIP
Played trial for all of 2mins. Got bored lol Just not my thing...
 
 
0
 
guido
On Thursday 3 Sep 2009 11:33 PM Posted by guido NZGamer.com VIP
3 September 2009, 07:10 PM Reply to SpawnSeekSlay
Played trial for all of 2mins. Got bored lol Just not my thing...
Yeah, but there's a lot of big names being dropped in that review. Might have to download the demo myself and give it another chance.
 
 
0
 
SpawnSeekSlay
On Saturday 5 Sep 2009 6:07 PM Posted by SpawnSeekSlay NZGamer.com VIP
3 September 2009, 11:33 PM Reply to guido
Yeah, but there's a lot of big names being dropped in that review. Might have to download the demo myself and give it another chance.
Big names u like lol
Cartoon = fun?!?
Not for me... i cant take it seriously lol :)
 
 
0
 
itachi
On Sunday 6 Sep 2009 2:44 PM Posted by itachi
Sounds like it could be fun.
 
 
0
 
Gazza22
On Monday 7 Sep 2009 12:17 PM Posted by Gazza22 NZGamer.com VIP
I thought it was a PSN title, not a full blown retail 100 smackroos's type of game.
 
 
0
 
guido
On Monday 7 Sep 2009 10:38 PM Posted by guido NZGamer.com VIP
5 September 2009, 06:07 PM Reply to SpawnSeekSlay
Big names u like lol
Cartoon = fun?!?
Not for me... i cant take it seriously lol :)
Yeah, you mention Zelda: Wind Waker and you've got my attention right there. Enough to make me think it could be worth downloading the demo and having more than a 2 min look at it ;-)
 
 
0
 
SpawnSeekSlay
On Tuesday 8 Sep 2009 7:39 PM Posted by SpawnSeekSlay NZGamer.com VIP
7 September 2009, 10:38 PM Reply to guido
Yeah, you mention Zelda: Wind Waker and you've got my attention right there. Enough to make me think it could be worth downloading the demo and having more than a 2 min look at it ;-)
If i mentioned Noby Noby Boy you'd take a look at it too :P lol coz thats the graphical detail of it right there! :)
A demo isnt exactly going to give u the story ur looking for from it, just the general gameplay and graphics.
If someone says its like Zelda Wind Waker you should just throw down the cash and get it if your that much of a believer :P double dare ya
 
 
0
 
guido
On Friday 11 Sep 2009 3:27 PM Posted by guido NZGamer.com VIP
8 September 2009, 07:39 PM Reply to SpawnSeekSlay
If i mentioned Noby Noby Boy you'd take a look at it too :P lol coz thats the graphical detail of it right there! :)
A demo isnt exactly going to give u the story ur looking for from it, just the general gameplay and graphics.
If someone says its like Zelda Wind Waker you should just throw down the cash and get it if your that much of a believer :P double dare ya
What!? Are you points whoring?! Come back when you've got something useful to say!! :-p The Zelda series is a (multiple) system seller to me. So name dropping it in a review will of course get my attention and I'll investigate further but 99 times out of 100 that's where it ends. Once in a while though something great comes along, like Okami, and then I throw down! ;-)
 
 
0
 
shadowbandit
On Monday 14 Sep 2009 7:33 PM Posted by shadowbandit
Awesome!!!
But it's not available on PSP =(
 
 
0
 
Muff1nmanNZ
On Saturday 19 Sep 2009 5:18 PM Posted by Muff1nmanNZ
brilliant.
 
 
0
 
BaldBish
On Tuesday 22 Sep 2009 4:15 PM Posted by BaldBish
Could be worth a laugh ;-)
 
 
0
 
GayMan3000
On Sunday 11 Oct 2009 4:22 PM Posted by GayMan3000
Played the demo.. twas a bit iffy...
 
 
0