Humble Indie Bundle 9 ReviewGuest_Jim_* - September 17, 2013
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Mark of the Ninja Review:
Mark of the Ninja is a stealth game, which should not really surprise you since the word 'ninja' is in the title. It is also two dimensional, so maybe that can surprise you. One thing is sure though, your enemies will be surprised when you drive a blade through their chests.
The game begins with your clan being attacked by numerous armed enemies. Luckily you were not discovered at the beginning of the raid, so you have the time to get a weapon and some equipment. From that point on, your enemies start to become less numerous, if you choose to take the lethal route. You can also avoid any encounters and be awarded points accordingly.
As a ninja, you have many powers of stealth at your disposal, including climbing walls, some ceilings, entering vents, and you can also see sound waves emanating from their source. This includes the sounds you make while running and grappling to new areas, so be careful how you move, so as not to attract an enemy's attention. If you are ever detected though, you have three options. You can run and find a spot to hide until the enemies give up searching. You can fight with kicks and punches, as you may only draw your sword for fatal attacks. You can also hit escape and restart from a checkpoint.
As stated above, you are only allowed to draw your sword when you can deal a lethal blow, which requires attacking an enemy after knocking him to the ground, or sneaking up on him. Obviously the latter option is preferred, but it is not as easy as that. When you press the mouse button to initiate the attack, you must then click and drag in the correct direction to make a silent kill. Moving the mouse in the wrong direction, or not moving it at all will result in an imperfect kill that awards fewer points and other enemies can hear.
Though the game does have a narrative, your scores on levels are obviously also a focus of the game. You are encouraged to replay levels in different ways to get better scores, such as killing every enemy or avoiding them as much as possible. Also levels can have small optional objectives, such as not being detected, which further add to your point total.
Part of the narrative is an explanation for the title, Mark of the Ninja. As it is revealed so early in the game, I have little issue with sharing it here, but if you would rather not see it, just skip to the next paragraph. The Mark of the Ninja is a tattoo made of a special ink, which the clan has kept for its champions for many generations. The reason it is reserved for its champions is that the ink contains a toxin that gives you special powers, but ultimately drives you insane. For that reason, the last act of a champion is to kill themselves to protect the clan. At least at first the special power you have is to pause time, and plan out how to use your equipment.
The graphics are simple, as a point of style. There are clear contrasts between different objects, and some, such as enemies and yourself, will change to indicate whether the object is being illuminated. In your case, your robes turn black, but your tattoo still shines red, so you can see where you are in the dark. The animations appear to be quite well designed, so bodies do not misbehave as you stab your sword through them from different positions.
Thus far the game appears to be simple, but with a decent amount of depth. Anyone should be able to pick it up and learn to play competently very quickly, even if they skip the well-designed tutorial. For those interested in bettering their score though, the level design allows you to take different routes to success, and by employing your equipment in different ways you can control the situation. For anyone looking for a nicely polished stealth game, you should definitely get the bundle for this. For everyone else, before passing on the bundle, check that the shadows behind you are not moving, or, you know, just get the bundle anyway and enjoy Mark of the Ninja.