Mark Of The Ninja Review
Posted by PlayDevil.com Staff on Nov 13, 2012 14:44
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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.
Mark uses Klei’s signature style, but the game is much darker, both in tone and colour palette. Sometimes the lack of visual variety compared to the Shank games can seem like a bit of a drag, but overall, Klei’s usual exceptional artwork holds up extremely well. It looks like you’re a bad-ass cartoon ninja, and the game animates just as insanely well as all the studio’s other games to boot, which is perfect when you’re a graceful assassin.
The music, whilst perhaps too stereotypically Asian still suits the game very well, and adds a strange amount of peace to an otherwise very bloody game. The voice acting is perhaps a level below most retail games still, but it’s not too bad, and shows just how much some of these indie developers are catching up with the big boys in terms of production standards.
"Mark of the Ninja" is a big step up from Klei, and at moments, is one of the best stealth games ever made. You feel so powerful and yet so fragile at the same time- a giddy high that 3D stealth games have so often failed to replicate at all. Yet the B-movie ninja vs. corporation plot and overly-long levels do bring the game down a little bit, which could have also benefitted from a little more visual variety. Either way, Mark is one of my favourite arcade games of the year, and is a significant step up over most of the year’s albeit pretty miserable Summer of Arcade titles, and is well worth your points.
Great visual style
+ Feel of power
+ Lots of ways of completing a level
- Story is hit-and-miss
- Levels are too long