Developer TeraBit software
Platform PC/Mac (PC Reviewed)
Things You Might Like
- Awesome voice acting
Things You Might Not Like
- Dated graphics
- Gameplay is too fast to strategize
- Very demanding level completion requirements
- Fragile ninjas?
- Little replay value or room for improvisation
Call of the Ninja aims high by trying to reinvent the classic 90’s puzzler Lemmings. However, the dated graphics and buggy game mechanics keep it from being great. Given time and refinement, however, this has the potential to become a very entertaining game.
2 out of 5 Ninjas Gaidened
Call Of The Ninja was created in the same vein of the classic, animal preservation simulator, Lemmings (1991) where you direct creatures through a treacherous landscape from a starting point to safe haven at the end point. The puzzle solving element comes from the fact that these creatures have no self-preservation instinct and require your aid to avoid traps, pitfalls and enemies. Lemmings made for a challenging experience that required, in some cases, elaborate planning. Well, Call of the Ninja set out to emulate this experience, with one difference.This time you can use Ninjas!
Who doesn’t love ninjas? Oh…pirates, right, pirates HATE ninjas. This game…this game also hates ninjas. More on that later.
Anyway, as potential ninja clan leader, it is your job to protect and guide ninjas as they run at break neck speed out of a yin/yang symbol and towards the Sacred Dojo. This won’t be easy, though. There are perils along the way that would keep your clan from enjoying whatever utopia lies inside the dojo. Some of these obstacles include water traps, high falls, giant piranha and shuriken towers, all of which instantly kill your ninjas. To help keep your ninjas in tact throughout each level, you drag and drop green ability buttons onto the map from a menu bar at the bottom of your screen. Whenever your ninjas touch one of these buttons, they’ll perform the ability that will help them navigate an obstacle. Depending on the map, you are allotted a predetermined amount of each of the following skills: super speed, jump, water running, invisibility and climbing.
On a personal note, I’d like to discuss the game’s central idea. Things can kill your ninjas? Really? When you think of ninjas, do you think of sissy-pants losers who die from long falls, drowning, or being eaten by the monster from Little Shop of Horrors? Absolutely not! As a fan of the awesomeness that is ninja, this is one area where I think Call of the Ninja went wrong; they should replace the ninjas with something more believably fragile…like possums or bunny rabbits or any other woodland creature that doesn’t moonlight as an elite killer. Though, I suppose they would need to change the name. Okay, rant over.
Glass-jawed ninjas aside, Call of the Ninja could stand to retool some of the game mechanics. Like the classic Lemmings, you were required to rescue a fraction of the total lemmings in each level. In Lemmings, this fraction was reasonable, like 35 out of 50. This gave you a chance to learn the level a little bit and you had the freedom to lose a few lemmings without failing the mission. Call of the Ninja’s completion requirements are far too strict. In early levels, you are already required to rescue 45 of the 50 total ninjas to proceed, which is just frustrating.
In addition to the strict completion requirements, your ninjas run out of the starting yin/yang like bats out of hell as soon as you even click on one of the green ability orbs. Odds are you’ll lose a few ninjas (maybe even enough to fail the level) before even placing your abilities. This leaves you with almost no time to react or plan. It also doesn’t help that the shadow assassins you command simply LOVE sprinting for the nearest deadly obstacle. Once you have the solutions in place, you can then watch as your clan sprints and leaps towards safety. This can be rewarding. However, you will likely have to replay most levels at least once to experience this satisfaction
Lastly, the graphics could use a facelift. The title screens and in-game option menus have the same look and feel of an original XBOX era game; while the overall look of the game is very flat and dated. As they tend to aim for a cutting edge look, 3D graphics can be very hit or miss when it comes to how they stand up to the test of time. I think that by embracing an alternate art direction, perhaps an 8-bit style, the creators could go a long way to improve the look and feel of their game.
At the end of the day, Call of the Ninja is a game that had real potential, and in fact still does. Though it has its fair share of gameplay issues, most of these could likely be easily repaired and a genuinely entertaining game could emerge from the reprogramming cocoon. For now, however, you might want to let this one sneak by.
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