Mark of the Ninja Review – A Subtle, Brutal and Deadly Joy to Play
Mark of the Ninja throws you right into it, combining the distinctive art style and visceral kills of Shank (my favourite parts) with the quick, stealthy movements of a ninja. This game is the latest offering from Klei Entertainment, a Vancouver based studio best known for Shank, Shank 2, and EETS. Long story short, this game is well worth sinking some time into.
Read more after the break.
Every level, from first to last is well put together. The character design, again reminiscent of Shank although cleaner and slightly less cartoony, meshes incredibly well with the dark and beautiful areas you traverse. Even the map screen is a pleasure to look at. Each level is also filled with hidden secrets and challenges ranging from smashing a certain number of lights to not being detected for an entire level.
Mark of the Ninja plays very similar to a puzzle game. Rooms often have several solutions, letting you pass through as a merciless killer or a focused assassin. This, combined with the secrets and challenges, give this game real replay value.
Starting in you’re taught the basics of the game without feeling like you’re going through a tutorial. Proceeding through the level feels natural, with each new tool of the trade adding a new and different aspect of the assassin’s trade. Use these tools. Charging into a fight Ninja Gaiden-style is doable, but not recommended. You’ll be spotted (resulting in a lowered score) and likely be shot.
Asides from not being riddled with bullets, stealth holds many rewards. Bonus points are given only for performing kills, but also for stealthy actions such as evading patrolling guards and hiding bodies. Being stealthy also allows you to perform context sensitive instant kills. A successful strike, (holding a direction and tapping a button) rewards you with a silent, near instant kill. Failing the quick button challenge still results in a kill, only a slower and noisier one that will attract other enemies.
As with many stealth style games, light and sound play a huge part in detection. Instead of meters or Thief-style gems, Mark of the Ninja places its detection monitoring in the level itself. When in light, your character is detailed in colour. Sounds are represented by quickly expanding rings that denote hearing range. Very slick.
If anything, the room to room transitions are what make this game such a joy to play. You’re only able to see the room you’re in, however by pushing on doors and grates or looking over ledges, you’re able to peek into adjoining areas, noting guard placement.
Speaking of gorgeous design, the cutscene and cinematic animation deserves kudos in their own right. The quality of both rival cartoons such as Samurai Jack and Sym Bionic Titan.
My recommendation? Buy this game. It’s entertainingly ingenious titles like this that I love seeing on XBLA. Even at 1,200 Microsoft Points (about $15), Mark of the Ninja is a steal. Step up and play this visually inspiring stealthy masterpiece.