Mark of The Ninja Review (XBLA)

Game: Mark of the Ninja
Genre: 2D Stealth Action/ Platformer
System: Xbox 360 (XBLA)
Review By: MrB4

They are one with the night, exist in the shadows, and only strike when necessary. Who are these entities that I speak of? Well, ninjas of course. Many games out there today try to recreate the true essence of what our beloved secret warriors are all about, but are usually only minimally successful in accomplishing this task. Then something like Mark of the Ninja comes along, and all of the sudden, feeling like a true ninja master is only a button press away. Let’s check it out.

Story: An army is attacking a ninja base, and for some reason, our main character is caught in the middle of it. After being woken up by a woman named Ora, he notices a tattoo on his back, and has no idea how it got there.  He soon realizes that this decorative piece of body art grants it’s bearer magical powers. So without much choice, the unnamed hero sets out on a quest to find out more about why someone put it there, and ends up uncovering a number of other secrets about his past as well. The story is told through a number of very stylish, yet extremely vain cutscenes that are nice to look at, but don’t really do much to enhance the overall plot at all whatsoever.

Gameplay: One of the finest examples of stealth action that I have ever played as far as video games are concerned. Just about every item within an area can be manipulated in a number of different ways to keep your enemies guessing. Want to try to move around somebody near a light, take it out. In desperate need of moving around a larger group  of people, hit a gong to get them to move away from it. Need to hide a dead body so that other people can’t find it, don’t worry, you can do that too.

All of these moves are as fun to watch as they are to pull of. Stealth kills, while fun, are not necessary to completing a level, so don’t expect to engage in combat that often. My only real gripe with the gameplay as a whole are the platforming mechanics, they can be a little bit clunky at times, which can lead to unfair deaths, other than that, my experience was entirely enjoyable across the board.

Graphics: The hand drawn visual style is absolutely beautiful. Almost every game from Klei has a unique comic book like feel to it, and this title is no different in that regard. Character animations, both enemies and heroes, are realistic, believable, and sometimes downright disturbing to watch. Level designs have a huge amount of variety to them, which will without a doubt keep players on their toes. Add a consistent frame rate to the mix, and what you have is a truly beautiful title just dripping from the seams with style, with a little substance thrown in for good measure.

Sound: About as delightful as it gets given the dark source material from which the title is based on. The background music was moody, and set the appropriate tone for each stage. Sound effects were gut wrenching and realistic, especially when it came to the  stealth kills, so anybody with a weak stomach may want to cover their eyes here, because it’s not a very pleasant experience to sit through, that’s for sure. The voice acting was ok for the most part, just don’t expect any award winning performances here.

Replayability: The main campaign will take about eight hours or so to complete, but there are plenty of other things to do once everything is said and done. A number of different collectibles can be found in each stage, secret challenges are are available to playthrough, new abilities can be unlocked,  and there is more than one way to explore each area as well. Include a New Game Plus mode that changes up all of your abilities, along with an online leaderboard system, and people will have a number of different reasons to come back to this game for many months to come.

Mark of the Ninja is proof positive that being a careful, yet patient gamer can lead you on the path to success. Download it now.

Final Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Mark of the Ninja
Developer:  Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Metacritic: 90
MSRP: 1200 MSP ($15.00)

Check out the official Mark of the Ninja Xbox page here for more information on the game.