MARK OF THE NINJA REVIEW
Klei have had a mixed past, with Shank looking fantastic, but not playing quite so well. Does a move from over-the-top action to stealth magically fix the studio’s past sins?
Posted by PlayDevil.com Staff on Nov 13, 2012 14:44 (Nov 13, 2012 14:44)
Written by: Ian
Mark of Greatness?
Klei have had a mixed past, with Shank looking fantastic, but not playing quite so well. Does a move from over-the-top action to stealth magically fix the studio’s past sins? There is also a change in publisher from EA to Microsoft- has this affected the studio? With "Mark Of The Ninja" released to little fanfare and outside the traditional marketing windows, have Microsoft tried to hush up a disaster?
Mark of the Ninja doesn’t have the best plot. It’s half-way house between a B-movie and trying to take itself too seriously, with a number of Ninjas fighting against some big, evil corporation. The cut-scenes make a lot of ninja spirit, training, tattoos and the like, but none of it is really essential to the action. In fact, the stupid ninja-lingo was so far over the top I just lost the plot on several occasions- so good job it’s not crucial to the game!
The move from action to stealth certainly hasn’t hurt Mark of the Ninja- in fact, it’s been a great help. The core gameplay is fluid, elegant and most importantly: fun. You feel like a real bad-ass, but you remain very, very fragile. Alert an enemy, and the chances are you’ll be dead in seconds.
The checkpointing is tight though, so even though the game can be very tough in parts, it’s rarely too much of a chore to retrace your steps, not does the game ever really get frustrating. It’s one of those rare games that when you die, you do generally feel like it was absolutely your own stupidity that has caused the mess you’re in.
You get plenty of ninja gadgets like smoke bombs and daggers to help you out, and there is even an upgrade path to improve your skills. However, the best part of the game is that it’s 2D. 3D stealth games are often limited by the fact they have to be very obvious about where guards are.
Thus you end up with very stupid AI, obvious rotation patterns and other issues. Klei is able to neatly side-step these design issues, and has created a really solid stealth-em-up as a result, which is almost always a joy to play. Like I mentioned, there can be odd moments of frustration, and I do think the levels are too long, but these are minor points in an excellent little game that’s well worth the points, especially given you get a good-length 3-5 hour campaign out of the title.