By – Callan MacKinlay
So you wanna be a ninja? Well then, step right up and receive our patented Ninja Tattoo. Guaranteed to give you powers beyond your imagining, our tattoos will not only make you faster, stronger and deadlier, they will also slowly drive you insane. All purchases are final.
Mark of the Ninja is a 2D stealth action platformer where you play as a member of a ninja clan that has recently been attacked by some sort of global security company run by a man named Karajan and it is your job to get revenge. Using the tools of your trade, it is your job to hunt down the leader of this company and exact retribution as only a ninja can, silently. You do this by acting like a dark costumed Spiderman, climbing up walls, along ceilings and shooting up to points with your ridiculously long grappling hook. You also have the ability to hide behind vases, in vents and behind doors. But it’s not all about hiding and snooping in Mark of the Ninja. In this game you also get to kill people. Lots of people. However, there is an option in this game to make it through without killing many people. You will still have to kill a few key people (like Karajan), but your score will be highest if you manage to pass by everyone undetected without killing them.
Every time you attempt to kill someone, a little quick-time event pops up, requiring you to hold the attack button and a direction button. If you do this successfully, you kill the person silently. If done incorrectly, the person dies screaming, alerting others in the area to your position. It’s simple little touches like these that make Mark of the Ninja stand out from other games. While most stealth games like Splinter Cell have your character hitting one button to murder everything, Mark of the Ninja also requires a bit more and punishes you if you are unsuccessful. It is also important to note the direction button you are asked to hit is contextual. If you think before acting, you can always guess which button you will have to hit. This allows for planning and skill to come into play.
While the storyline of Mark of the Ninja seems a bit cheesy and contrived at first, it gets a lot better over time. While you move through the story, a female companion, Ora, gives you advice and directions on what to do next. She tells you little nuggets of history to flesh out the story and gives you hints on the weaknesses of new enemy types and bosses. Your ninja is also equipped with a few different types of items to help him along his quest: darts, distraction items and attack items. Darts are used to take out lights and power sources and sometimes to distract (although they have a very small sound radius). Distraction items involve things like flares, used to lure guards to other positions. Finally, attack items are used to kill your enemies in interesting ways (like devouring them alive with bugs).
As your ninja gets closer to his target, he gets tattoos which are laced with a flower that grants you special powers (like Darkvision). These powers come at a price, however, as it is said that whoever is tattooed with the “Mark” goes insane and has to die or else kill the entire clan. When you get nearer to the end of the story, you start experiencing enemies as hallucinations, which explode into a riot of colors when you deal with them. While this doesn’t change the gameplay much, it does a great job to make you, the player, question what is actually happening in the game versus what is going on in the character’s mind. All in all, the story is simple but well executed, and it doesn’t hurt that the game looks so good.
Employing its own brand of comic art style, Mark of the Ninja is an extraordinarily beautiful game. The game changes colors whenever an area is hit by light, which is something you try to avoid as often as possible, making most of the game black and red. I say black and red because those are the two primary colors of darkness in Mark of the Ninja. Early on, lots of areas are illuminated and show the whole gamut of colors but later this shifts more to black and red as your character slips more and more into his own psychosis.
One aspect of this game that caught my attention was the voice acting. I happen to be pretty good at picking up accents (part of my long time working in the service industry) and this game has one voice actor that attempts to put on an Australian accent and fails so miserably I was unable to pay attention to what he was saying. Luckily, there were subtitles. It’s possible that the voice actor is Australian and was attempting to put on an American accent but either way, it was distracting. The rest of the voice acting is great. None of the characters really have noticeable accents except for the slight, Russian accent the main bad guy has, which is well done. But I always find it interesting when something like this slips through the cracks in an otherwise very well produced game.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
Mark of the Ninja is only $15 at the time of writing this review and you will get a lot of hours out of it. After beating the base game, you get to play again in New Game Plus mode, which, much like Arkham City, has you replaying the game in a more difficult fashion. The difficulty increases by giving you a limited cone of vision instead of being able to see everything and hiding things like sound indicators. It changes the way you play the game in significant ways and doesn’t feel like simple padding. I personally got 15 hours out of this game and I haven’t even gotten past the second level on New Game Plus. You will get more than your money’s worth out of Mark of the Ninja and I am certain you will enjoy almost all of it.
- Time Played – 15 hours
- Widescreen Support – Yes
- 5.1 Audio Support – Yes
- Bugs/Crashes Encountered – Failure to close sometimes, needed to push alt-F4
- Control Scheme – Mouse/Keyboard or Gamepad
- DRM – Steam
- System Specs – AMD Phenom II X6 1100T, 8GB RAM, Nvidia Geforce 550Ti
- Game Acquisition Method – Steam
- Full Report – PCGamingWiki