Developed by Klei Entertainment, Mark of the Ninja for the Xbox LIVE Arcade is available to download right now direct from the Marketplace. Best described as one of the most exhilarating Ninja titles for the Xbox LIVE Arcade – EVER! This is one hit title you’ll want to keep under your belt as its addictive gameplay grips you as you stalk out the enemy from the shadows of your environment. If it comes across like we’re totally going to big-up Klei Entertainment’s latest arcade offering, then you’re a pretty switched on – the game is perfect, enjoyable and the best 1200 MS Points you could spend this September… or probably full stop.
It all starts off pretty dark, not as in deep and meaningful, but just completely dark to look at on screen as you’re guided to learn the ropes of your Ninja skills and how to stealthily scramble around your environments before mastering the art of killing in the midst of the night. It does have an interesting tale to tell if not all that apparent because for a 2D platformer it’s action packed from the offset.
The story starts out with an attack on an uncovered ninja base by armed forces and you take on the role of a Ninja who is awakened by another Ninja named Ora and together your objective is to defeat the soldiers to help save your master, Azai. Having previously passed out earlier in the day through having a tattoo, you later learn from Azai the legend around it and the special skills that will be passed on to you via the ink within it. Eventually things start to go tits-up and the introduction of rogue Ninja’s, new defensive technology and an even greater means of survival is your only outcome. The journey as a player is somewhat of an exciting time ahead and the mysteries around your character start to unravel where you eventually and inevitably decide the outcome of your own fate! The fun is obviously in the gameplay which as a Ninja is all down to risk and reward tactics as you experience the stealth required of being a Ninja yet additionally rewarded in points for the risk of being caught as you kill, hide and present yourself in areas of danger, before swiftly making an exit.
There are two settings to every environment which is that of darkness and light, and each setting changes the gameplay tactics to counter balance stealth and open attack. In darkness, your enemies have to be very close to you before you are noticed –so this makes a more stealthy attack more possible. However, many enemies move around all very cleverly interact with each other together. Arouse suspicion and the enemies will notify others close by to look for something out of the ordinary or to investigate what has happened, especially if you’ve secured a quick kill. In the light your characters appearance presents itself more visible to everyone, and every enemy can now see you from a far greater distance which often ends in a group kill towards you unless you can make a quick escape (somehow). Escaping often involves hiding, climbing or just a good old fashioned leg-it approach, but it only takes a couple of gun shots before you’re killed outright and have to think about your approach more diversely.
As a Ninja game, Mark of the Ninja feels very classic in its approach as it doesn’t present itself way over the top, mixing the right balance between assassination and infiltration. Thinking about your approach to the enemies and planning your exit from each 2D environment using your Ninja tools in a variety of different ways allows you to make the game your own. You earn points from kills, hiding behind objects without being seen and all your hard earned efforts will allow you to buy upgrades. The game features a mix of stun bombs, firecrackers, arrows and many more distraction items as well as new Ninja techniques that can be obtained later in the game.
Not only are all of the controls are easy to master with an intuitive style, but there are plenty of on-screen prompts to assist you if needed. Movement is controlled directionally with the option to run if required, but the noise from your steps may alert the (must I say ever-so-intelligent AI) enemies. In-between grappling to safety spots, hiding under drains, peering through doorways, alley ways and hiding behind plants – you’ll also encounter many interactive objects and an ever increasing difficulty as the game draws to its conclusion. It’s definitely going to be one of those games you’ll want to play again and again where you’ll even grab yourself rewards for playing it more than once.
Mark of the Ninja from Klei Entertainment is every bit as entertaining and gripping to play as you’d expect from a Ninja game. Featuring many stealthy challenges and a persistent need to keep pushing forward with the story all within a spectacular 2D visual display of a dark, gritty world for your survival. You’ll never want it to end.