[spoiler name="Mark of the Ninja Information"]Developer(s) By: Klei Entertainment
Publisher(s) By: Microsoft Studios
Rated: “M” for Mature
Price: $15 (1200MSP)
Release Date: September 7th, 2012 (XBLA), October 16th, 2012 (PC)
Platform(s): Xbox Live Arcade & Steam[/spoiler]
Klei Entertainment has done it again. They’ve created a flawless game which integrates the story and gameplay perfectly; putting out what is easily one of the best Xbox Live Arcade games, ever. Mark of the Ninja is successfully dynamic in gameplay, entertaining in storytelling, visually polished in artwork and overall a masterpiece in the genre of stealth and even to that of other genres. With that in mind, the game is a must buy; but of course you’d like to know why, so read on fellow gamer!
The premise is simple. Your clan is threatened by big corporate show offs. This leaves you, the ninja, with the responsibility to defend your fellow ninjas from those who wish to harm you. To aid you in your journey, you’re given tattoos made from a magical toxin which will give you strange powers. However there’s a catch to the marks, eventually the power will be too much that you’ll soon have to take your own life before you go crazy from the marks.
The story feels like it has been ripped out of Ninja folklore. It’s original and interesting to the very end. Ultimately though, the story will put the mentality of what you are doing as a ninja really good or bad, a decision you be faced with as the story progresses. It’s easy to see how the story can affect the level of difficulty. As you progress through missions, levels become harder and enemies become smarter all while new features become available, allowing you become more of a ninja. The game also features a wonderful upgrade system on your character. Skills are upgradeable to where they allow you to choose between better or more stealth attacks to increased health or stronger secondary weapons. If you’re more into slasher games or “run and gun”, then you can upgrade skills to increase your weapons along with your armor. If you prefer stealth, which I highly recommend you do, you can take on skills that allow you to quietly kill from hidden areas, overhead, under, or even behind doors. Although the list for secondary weapons is minimal, they all easily balance out to allow you to easily stay hidden or for a sneaky attack. Your skills however, range to where you’ll really have to choose what you want to upgrade.
The game is heavy on stealth and even heavier in what it means to be a ninja. You can either take a kill quietly or perform a loud kill which makes noise loud enough for other guards close by to hear. There are places to hid, like behind a door, in a basket, and especially in the dark. Even in boss battles the game puts obstacles in your way to allow you to take the boss head on or complete the obstacle for a more ninja kill. Mark of the Ninja even features some in game puzzles that do challenge your skills in stealth and speed.
The game is dark, visually. Klei Entertainment has perfected the lighting to give an even flow of shadow and light. The advantages to this means that you can truly disappear in the shadows. A nice effect is whatever skin you’re wearing when in light you see a different outfit as opposed to when you’re in the darkness; this helps to remind you when you are easily visible. Some levels even feature rain and lightning which makes your environment dangerous, which happens when a flash of lightning occurs and you’re then easily visible to see even in dark shadows.
Most memorable, aside from the lighting, are Mark of the Ninja’s backgrounds. The backgrounds consist of beautiful artworks layered upon each other providing dynamic visuals and depth that brings a true artistic style. Aside from that, Mark of the Ninja is a crisp clear game. The graphics are fantastic allowing the game to project itself at a high level. Cut scenes are beautiful as well. The 2D animation can drives the story a lot easier than you’d typically think. Although the game really puts out a lot of dark shadows and dark colors, there’s still that relying effect on brighter colors to help give a distinct approach to the darkness. You can easily see the separations in your surroundings, from where it’s safe to hide to where it isn’t.
As every ninja should know, sound is something they rarely do. In Mark of the Ninja, it’s a vital aspect to the game. To stay stealth you have to remain quiet, or at least make as little noise as possible. If you use the ability to run around hallways or on walls you’ll make noise that will alert guards. When you cling onto a ledge you’ll make noise as well. Some upgrades allow you to lessen the sounds of your footsteps, but overall you’re going to have to stay quiet unless you want all hell to break loose. Aside from that, the game’s resonances are sophisticated. The sounds are prodigious and cohesively work well with the other elements of the game. If you have a headset, I greatly recommend you play with them on with Mark of the Ninja.
As you’d expect, the game plays beautifully. During my hours of playing, I had never felt like a ninja until I started playing this. Controls assimilate your skills nicely allowing you to hide, jump, or kill smoothly. At no point was I ever upset about the controls. Jumps were perfect, kill commands were responsive, and when hidden I never found myself accidentally out of hiding. Controls work amazingly great and really deliver a fantastic experience; one to remember for a long time.
To the conclusion, Mark of the Ninja is a masterpiece. You knew that from my first paragraph, but now you know why. The story is thought out, the gameplay mechanics and controls are a match made in heaven, and the visuals are absolutely fantastic. Mark of the Ninja fits perfectly together within itself performing even better to some retail games. So to easily end this review, I strongly urge you to go now onto the Xbox Live marketplace and buy this game. You know what; to make things simpler here’s a link to purchase it now, online: Mark of the Ninja