When I was a kid I always wanted to be a Ninja and this is probably the same for most people, hopefully, or maybe it’s just me. Damn. I don’t know what started this weird craze. It could be from growing up in the 90’s where I was exposed to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Scorpion from Mortal Kombat, Anime or 90’s action movies. Whatever it was, the closest I got to fulfill this dream in video game format was from the Tenchu series. Of Course, we got Ninja Gaiden a few years later, which is a great series, but I felt it focuses two much on hack and slash then stealth, which Ninja’s are historically know for. Well, now I can fulfil my desire again with Mark of the Ninja and it does not disappoint.
Mark of the Ninja is a PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 2D side scrolling stealth game developed by Klei Entertainment (the guys that brought you Shank) and was published by Microsoft Studios. The player takes control of a unknown Ninja with the game taking place in modern time. It’s in this modern time that the unknown Ninja’s clan ends up being attacked by a group of soldiers. The Ninja wakes up after receiving a tattoo, and is tasked with rescuing his master. The story is nothing special and is probably the weakest part of the game.
The gameplay is where the game impresses. The game is a 2D side scroller with the player going from one side of map to the other, or reaching a certain goal. You will encounter enemies on the map, which you can decide to take out or avoid. Since this is a Ninja game, there is only one way to take out enemies effectively, and that’s through the art of assassination. Taking out the enemy silently requires some patience. You have to watch the enemy, observe the patterns he does, and make sure that when you kill him you are not seen by anyone else.
Taking out the enemies proves to be fun and enjoyable. Enemies will get alerted if they see you or if they hear sounds. You can tell if enemies are alerted by marks on top of their heads. If they have a yellow question mark, they have been alerted by you or are scouting the area. If they have a red exclamation mark, they have spotted you and will hunt you down. Enemies also spot you if you are in their line of sight or if you happen to walk in front of them when they are near light sources, like lamp posts. Remember, the shadows are your ally and you have to use them effectively.
The game also entertains you with challenging puzzles. Puzzles can be from anything like taking out switches to opening a door, or getting pass the door without getting shot by needles flying out of the walls. The puzzles never seem unfair or stop you from wanting to play the game. Most of the time, it just requires some patience and trial and error. Puzzles also come in the form of collecting scrolls. During the game you may find shrines hidden around the levels, and interacting with shrines leads you into a separate level tasked with getting the scroll. The scrolls are like audio tapes, which provide information on your clans history and the mysterious tattoos inked into your body. Although I enjoyed the shrine puzzle levels, retrieving the scrolls didn’t feel like a nice reward, mainly due to the weak story, which becomes uninteresting.
During the levels, the game will reward you points for reaching check points, killing a enemy silently, or getting past the enemy without getting noticed. The game seems to reward you for every action you do, and you will feel pleased with the constant rewards. During the end of the level, the points will add up based on how many enemies you alerted or how many you killed, just to name a few. The points add up into honors, which will allow you to purchase upgrades or different items you can use. One of the items later on was a cardboard, which is a nice homage to Metal Gear Solid. Each level also has three seal challenges that players can do to earn extra honors. You also get a new game plus mode when you have finished your first play though of the game, with your upgrades and items carrying over. These challenges and new game plus mode add replay ability to the game.
The graphics have a very nice cartoon style to them, but this game does have blood, so maybe not one for the kids. The graphics are very similar to Klei’s other game, Shank. Cut scenes also have an animated carton style. The kill animation impressed me the most and where very well done. Overall, graphics of the game are beautiful. The PC controls seemed very uncomfortable to me, and I decided to switch to a Xbox controller, which eliminated this problem for me.
Overall, Mark of the Ninja is an excellent stealth game. The game provides challenging and fun stealth mechanics, as well as challenging puzzles. I would of liked to have seen a better story, but I guess that can be a bit difficult when dealing with Ninjas. The game offers replay ability, with you spending hours trying to get a perfect score on each level, or just unlocking all the upgrades in the game. I recommend this to any ninja or stealth game fan. Who would of thought a 2D side scroller would make such an excellent stealth game? Klei deserves a lot of credit, and this is a game you should add to your collection.
- Excellent stealth mechanics
- Challenging and enjoyable puzzles
- Taking enemies out silently provides a lot of enjoyment
- What a game about Ninjas should play like with a emphasis on stealth
- Weak story
- Unfulfilling endings
- Uncomfortable PC controls
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He is an undergraduate games programmer and an overall video games enthusiast living in the UK.