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Mini Ninjas Member Review for the Xbox360

TheDiesel By:
GENRE Adventure 
DEVELOPER Io Interactive 
E10+ Contains Cartoon Violence, Crude Humor

What do these ratings mean?

Mini Ninjas Review

In this day and age when it comes to games, the hardcore gamer hits on a venue where more violent
equals more enjoyable: Manhunt 2, Gears of War, and the upcoming SAW video-game, just to name a few are selling dismembered bodies and mature themes to the mass community.  As this consumes the market, games for the more casual type outside of the Wii are starting to diminish at an alarming rate.  IO Interactive are known for the makings of the Hitman franchise and Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, so it was a big shocker when Eidos and IO announced that their next game on the market was not the mass-murdering titles that they've built their company on; but a game about miniture ninjas on a quest to restore the balance of nature, and it was rated E10?

IO's newest game Mini Ninjas is about a young ninja named Hiro, who is actually the youngest and
less-skilled ninja of the tribe.  But Hiro is a special ninja for he knows the magic of the Kuji Arts, which allows you to access elemental spells and the ability to control animals.  The world has been a world of peace for a long time; then one day the Evil Samurai Warlord, who is a master of Kuji Magic, has begun to form an army of evil samurai out of the animal wildlife of the world.  One by one the animals are transformed into samurai, and for every animal turned to evil, the balance of nature starts to slowly become skewed and violent.  Raging storms and cracks in the earth start to form, runing the planet of its peacefulness and giving an ample note that a new ruler is dealt his cards.  So the Elder of the Ninja tribe sends out his best ninja to resolve the situation.  Months pass and no answer, so he sends his next best, and the next, and the next.  None return.  So it's now down to Hiro to save the world and restore the balance of nature.

When you are on your journey, the first feature one should notice is how beautiful the game looks.  IO
went for a less-realistic, more Japanese-art standpoint.  Very bright and colorful with rich detail help make this game a hidden piece of eye candy.  The enemies look very well detailed as well, though most of them are in samurai uniform and will look almost exactly the same; but with the enemies supposed to be mindless clones, it makes up for the reason.  Mini Ninjas will take players to various pieces of perpetual masterpieces: from the snowy mountains to barreling down grand rapids with a very smooth experience with no lag present at all.

While on the quest, Hiro will not be alone.  Throughout Mini Ninjas, Hiro will be re-united with past ninjas
on the same quest he is on now.  Each ninja has a specific technique that they are much better at.  One ninja specializes with the bow, while another has Wolverine-esque claws and incredible speed.  Each ninja can be used on-the-fly with a quick button press and can be brought into a fight at any time; this can be used to tackle many different foes at once and amass massive damage through combos.  Each ninja also has a special move they can initiate with a power orb and a hold of the Y button.  For Hiro, you stop time to highlight enemies, and when the Y button is released, he shoots into the air and slashes through enemies at a blistering pase.  The combat system is pretty basic but has some depth with the amount of teammates Hiro has with him which multiplies the amount of moves that can be done.

The coolest innovation about Mini Ninjas is the staple of stealth and action.  Having the ability to stealth
under long grass or sneak around enemies as an animal adds another layer of gameplay in a state of, "how do I tackle this?"  The amount of options is endless: you can use Hiro's Kuji magic to transform into a fox, get behind enemy lines, re-transform out and use a Power Orb to take out three of the enemies before they even knew what hit them.  Or you can run in with your sword and your brawn and fight for your hide.  The choice is up to the player and it's a fantastic feeling and adds a lot of replayability to the combat.

But if there's one thing that needs to be known about Mini Ninjas is the fact that the game was built
around the E10 demographic.  Instead of HP meters, you have a Legend of Zelda-esque Heart Bar.  Instead of killing enemies, they poof away.  Players looking for a challenge will probably be disappointed as the game is easy and targeted for kids, though if anything, the Hard difficulty will give some challenge.  Plus, Mini Ninjas was never bound to take itself seriously.  There's a lot of kiddie humor in the form of enemies poofing into animals, generals running away screaming in Japanese with their arms waving in the air, and a boss whose combat includes machine-gun farts: if Mini Ninjas isn't making you laugh, you're not playing the game right.

IO Interactive was selling Mini Ninjas to be an open-world action/stealth crossover.  And while it does
have open-world characteristics: it was shocking to see Mini Ninjas level-based.  There are a total of 21 levels, but the flow of the game would've been much better if everything was integrated into one simple world.  Though this would've made backtracking a living Hell, this could've easily been avoided by checkpoints at parts of the world.  The levels feel there only to make the collectables in the game easier to keep track of, and if you enjoy collecting items in games, you'll thank IO for the idea.  But it really hurts the flow of the game when I'm running through a level and it hits the end and it goes "Next Level or Continue Playing", it just doesn't feel right for a game that's supposed to be open-worlded to be bumped down with going to the next level.  Plus, there's no map in Mini Ninjas.  Hiro and the rest of the ninjas can call guidance from the Gods to show them a general direction towards the next objective, but it is still very easy to get lost in new levels if you're running around taking out enemies.

Whle playing, there were some minor technical problems throughout.  When I would be near a bush
where I could shake to recieve life and a collectable, I would more times than not head into the bush when I wanted the collectable.  Also, the music would cut out at random times pretty often throughout the game.

All-in-All, Mini Ninjas is a solid beginning title to a possible franchise of games.  The cute, detailed
graphics along with the kiddie humor is a great move, but the game being bumped to a low difficulty along with some shoddy design choices hold the game down.  This ninja needs more practice before it can become a Master.

  • + Great Graphics
  • + Cute & Quirky Humor
  • + Simple but Effective Combat
  • + Great Mix of Stealth and Action
  • +/- Too Easy
  • - Level Based Kills the Flow
  • - Persistent Technical Problems
  • - No Map?

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