Review – Ninjamurai
Developer: Open Emotion Studios
Platform(s): PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3
Rating: T – Teen
ESRB Content Descriptors: Blood and Violence
Official site: http://www.openemotionstudios.com/
The Scoop: Ninjamurai is a stylish 2D action platformer with beautiful hand painted animations and a killer soundtrack. It is a complex game that can be challenging but rarely is frustrating. Above all, the most impressive element of this game is where you can buy it. Fledgling developer Open Emotion’s salute to Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden from the 16 bit era can only be found in the PS Mini store; and a niche little title like this it couldn’t be more at home.
The Setup: You play as Takezou whose Sensei is killed in an attack on his village by the evil militia known as Black Armour. Your journey starts shortly afterwards and Takezou is set to deal the Black Armour leader a heavy dose of corporal punishment. (Do Ninja’s believe in an eye for an eye? Maybe the samurai do… who knows?) Of course, this leader isn’t readily available for a chat and you have to get work your way through is fortress to reach him.
Takezou owns a mix of ninja and samurai abilities (Ninja-murai. Get it now?) and switching between both play a large part in the game’s complexity. Takezou’s ninja skills allows him to run by enemies undetected, but can only be used for a limited time. Switching over to samurai allows you to use your sword but you can be seen by enemies. With only a limited amount of health, hacking and slashing you way to the finish line will not be possible. Ultimately, you will need to find the right balance of using both to make it through the game.
What’s Hot: As mentioned before, the game is beautiful. It uses hand painted animations with water colors which lends a cool vibe to the overall presentation. It is stunning to see on the PSP screen, but if you are planning on playing this with PS3 you maybe a little disappointed. Although the art style still has its appeal, the game losses some of its characteristics when blown up on a 50” LCD screen.
Ninjamurai’s punishing old-school style of platforming gameplay won’t be for everyone. You have a limited amount of lives to get through a level and you will need to do some memorizing of their layouts to get through them. Thankfully, they are small and meant to be played in short bursts so you won’t have to keep too much in the noggin for long. It is a perfect set up for gaming on the go.
What’s Not: The level design is a mixed bag of awesome and frustration. While the buildings and background look great, a lot of their elements are repeated. For the most part you are jumping over large death pits from platform to platform as you zig-zag your way down to the finish line. The problem is a lot of the times you are unsure of what is a death trap and what is a way down. I think the game would have been better suited to have you work your way up instead; but I am only a simple reviewer; so what do I know?
Final Verdict: The game is short, and can be finished in a few hours; but if you do like unlocking costumes and grabbing achievements there is plenty of reason to keep coming back. Ninjamurai is deal for the asking price of $1.99 and one that I highly recommend to those that love a good platformer.