Easter is about zombies, but Easter and Ninjas go hand in hand too, right? Well they did for me today when I played Mark of the Ninja by Klei Entertainment. When we first sat down to play this upcoming Xbox Live Arcade game we were told that at Klei they wanted to create a ninja title where you actually feel like a ninja. This 2-D side-scroller does a great job at capturing the true essence of a ninja.
I had the chance to play through a level this afternoon and I was pleasantly surprised with how in depth the level was. One of my favorite features of the game is the ability to complete a level without actually killing any enemies. Although I did not do this, I actually did exactly the opposite and killed everyone; it is really an awesome characteristic of this game. Ninja’s are traditionally stealthy beings who also happen to be killing machines. But if the killing isn’t necessary and you can complete a level and objective by simply sneaking around and being stealthy than why not?
One of the biggest aspects of being stealthy like a ninja is obviously the noise you make. Choosing to sprint instead of to quietly walk will make noise. Every time you make noise it created a ring of sound around the point of origination. Depending on how loud the noise was the ring could be quite small or large. If an enemy is within the ring they would become alerted. This noise system can be good or bad. One of the most important things a ninja can do is distract their enemies. Using ninja darts to break a light or to hit a gong does just that.
Killing an enemy can be stealthy as well. When you want to start an assassination you hit the “X” key. When the assassination begins you are given a prompt that was generally a direction and the “X” key again. If you hit this at the right time you complete a silent kill. If you miss this prompt the enemy struggles a little, and although you still assassinate them their struggle makes noise and possibly alerts additional enemies nearby.
The map I played on gave endless possibilities to maintain my stealth. If enemies were approaching I could hide in doorways or behind plants. There were also several different routes to take. I found a grappling hook which gave me the option of the rooftop above route. However there were also vents that provided a stealthy underneath route.
At the end of the level you get skill points for utilizing the environment, assassinations, and stealth. These points make your character more experienced. As you progress through the game we were told you gain additional moves and assassinations.
For such a simple design Klei Entertainment managed to add a lot of strategy and depth into this world. Typically 2-D side-scroller games are not my favorite. However, I did enjoy Mark of the Ninja and what it had to offer. Staying true to the nature of ninjas Klei created a very entertaining Xbox Live Arcade game.