The duders at Klei Entertainment are trying their hands at the 2D stealth platforming genre (what?!) with Mark of the Ninja for XBLA. Mark of the Ninja is to Shank as Pizza Rolls are to Pizza. It’s got all the flavor of the original recipe, but product as a whole is superior in every way. If Shinobi, Tenchu and Samurai Jack had a three-way-baby, they would name him Mark Oftheninja.
This video is intended for a mature audience as our commentary is not kid-friendly:
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First, let’s see what Mark of the Ninja had working against it. After a pretty disappointing summer on Xbox Live Arcade, I have to say I was ready to say that its glory days may be over. I mean, here we are on the brink of the major release season right after XBLA’s feature event (Summer of Arcade) so there’s no reason to expect higher quality games for the rest of 2012. After all, Klei’s Shank was featured in a previous exclusive XBLA event so if Mark of the Ninja didn’t make it in one, one can assume it is a lesser game than Shank. Plus, when was the last time you played a ninja game worth a damn?
Then, I played the tutorial. Then, I swallowed hard to make sure all of that bullshit above was truly gone and just focused on how much fun I was having.
Mark of the Ninja makes a pretty amazing case for the stealth genre. I’m even of the mind that stealth games are better served by sticking to two dimensions. It helps that I prefer my ninja games to be stealth focused mores over style and action.
Usually the puzzle solving and trial and error required by stealth games can wear gamers down, but through a brilliantly designed UI that is constantly giving the player feedback relative to their sneaking skills Mark of the Ninja’s fun factor remains surprisingly high. Klei has found the right pacing for their already proven art style. Deliberate and brutal fit quite well alongside Mark of the Ninja’s oh-so-satisfying executions.
The final bit of shadowy icing on this tricky treat is the deep scoring system. All of your ninjas actions are being tracked from how many enemies you kill, how often you are spotted, to how much you tormented your enemies before silently putting them out of their misery. The higher the score, the more medals you earn, and the quicker you level up which unlocks new ninja abilities. Your selection of skills allows for a variety of play types for those that tire of skulking in the shadows in the later game.
I never get tired of skulking so apologies to my friends and family if I seem a bit creepier lately. I’m just testing your peripheral vision and how well you see in the dark.
Mark of the Ninja was released on Sept 7, 2012 and is available now on Xbox Live Arcade from Klei Entertainment and Microsoft Studios.
Reflex Review – Like a memorable meal, some games make a big enough impression that you’ve got to tell other people about them before they’re fully digested.
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