From its cartoony graphics to the adorable grunts and hi-yahs of its protagonist, Mini Ninjas might feel like just another kids’ computer game. However, once we got past the tutorial and began battling some of the game’s equally adorable enemies, we found that Mini Ninjas’ storyline has real depth and the cut-scenes are more than just cheese.
We've never seen combat this cute.
In this insanely addicting third-person action-slasher, you play as Hiro, a young ninja who’s been asked to save the world from the Evil Samurai Warlord, who kidnaps precious animals and turns them into his sword-wielding samurai minions. Journeying through a fictional version of Imperial Japan, Hiro and his small team of ninjas battle these hordes and eventually bring down the Warlord in his Fortress of Doom. The 17 massive levels (with five boss battles) are packed with collectible Jizo statues, plants for making potions, and coins for purchasing potions and recipes. You must also rescue the animals by defeating enemies and freeing them from cages to release their “Ki,” which replenishes Hiro’s health and stamina meter. You can also control these animals using magic spells.
Playing the game is like walking through a sepia-toned anime world. The characters possess exaggerated facial features, and each freed animal is just as cheek-pinchingly cute as Hello Kitty--even the supposedly threatening grizzly bear has a certain allure of cuteness about him. The mini ninjas themselves move in a quick, animated fashion, which simplifies gameplay a bit because we didn’t have to perform convoluted maneuvers to defeat a bunch of enemies.
As you advance, Hiro must rescue five of his mini ninja friends, each with special moves and power attacks that most definitely come in handy. During the game, you can switch between any of the ninjas with the mouse or keyboard. If you’re in combat, the scene freezes while you select your character, which is great for players who might get overwhelmed when there’s a lot going on.
The nifty inventory scroll lets you assign spells and items to use interchangeably with the Quick Item Wheel, as well as special potions Hiro can consume to restore health. You can acquire spells at Kuji Shrines in each level, unlocking them with an anemone flower that’s usually found perched nearby. Hiro can cast magic spells from a distance, but only at the expense of his Ki meter. Bosses must be defeated with a series of moves, but the game’s hint system didn’t accurately guide us into figuring out what it takes to beat each boss. For example, we had to trick the first boss into swinging his sword into a pillar so that we could climb up and whack his head, then pull down his pants. But it wasn’t easy to figure this out until we jumped onto the sword at the right time and the game’s hint system popped up to let us know what to do next.
Though Mini Ninjas seems like it’s intended mainly for children (it’s rated Everyone 10+ by the ESRB), the cutesy characters and enjoyable gameplay are likely to put a smile on even the most hard-nosed adult.
COMPANY: Feral Interactive
REQUIREMENTS: 1.8GHz Intel processor, Mac OS 10.5.8 or later, 1GB of RAM, 128MB VRAM (integrated GMA cards with shared RAM not supported), 5GB free disk space
The controls and plot hint system shine. You can skip through the cut-scenes. Huge level maps.
Camera controls are buggy at times--not good during boss fights in particular.