I’ve always been a sucker for ninjas. When I was a kid I was obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: the cartoon, comics, and action figures. Soon that obsession expanded to all things ninja and samurai. So when I first heard about Klei Entertainment’s stealth platformer Mark of the Ninja, I knew I’d love it. I picked it up last year in a Humble Bundle, played it for one session and then moved on to something else. I enjoyed the game but for whatever reason I wasn’t ready to play it then.
Cut to 18 months later and I was finally prepared for my journey of the ninja. I’m only about 3 hours into the game, so this video is mainly a first impression. I’ll get this out of the way immediately: Mark of the Ninja is a beautiful game. The high contrast art style is striking, with amazing fluid animation throughout. The cut scenes are memorable and reminded me of classic Japanese-influenced animation like Samurai Jack.
Along with the superb visuals, Mark of the Ninja delivers generally tight gameplay. Occasionally the controls got away from me, but I think that’s more down to my impatience rather than anything else (more about that later). So far I’ve unlocked a few new ninja abilities (ninjabilities?) and you’ve got the freedom to approach the gameplay from a number of different angles.
The stealth mechanics in Mark of the Ninja are really well done. You get a visual representation of how much noise you’re making as well as how visible you are to the enemy. This works both ways as well, as you can see an enemy’s footsteps when you’re hiding out of sight. Some enemies can find you even if you’re hidden and as you get further in the game you’ll have to adapt to new environmental hazards.
After playing for a few hours, I’ve discovered I need to be in a certain frame of mind to play Mark of the Ninja. If I’m not relaxed enough I’ll soon grow impatient with the environmental puzzles and blow a stealth takedown or fall into a laser. I can only play for short periods, when I’m in the right state (with a balance of relaxation and alertness). Normally I like to dive right into a game and play for hours but I like that I need to experience Mark of the Ninja in small doses. Means I’ll be able to take my time and enjoy exploring the game.
I’m glad I’ve finally taken the opportunity to properly play Mark of the Ninja, a great example of focused gameplay and development. This is one oversight I’m happy to correct.Colin Le Sueur