Sneaky Ninjas is a 2D platformer that tries to mix elements of stealth into its gameplay. The game created by Starfall Studios, is endearingly cute and takes players to Japan to experience the adventures of four Ninjas. The game offers challenging gameplay where players can jump to their hearts content but must avoid falling into the abyss. Starfall Studios is still in the process of tirelessly working on an official release. Therefore, certain elements, including story, were not refined or completely clear. Nonetheless, the demo defines the foundations of an interesting and enjoyable 2D platformer, that with more funding could evolve into something exhilarating.
While the game takes place in the Land of the Rising Sun, I found myself in a bright world of green grass and bouncing mushrooms. The game allows players to control one of four Ninjas. Once a character has been chosen, their story begins. At the start, a quest is given by your sensei and then the 2D platform world has to be navigated. The aim of the game is to reach the end and ring a gong.
As I only played a demo version of this game, it was hard to grasp if there was any story to Sneaky Ninjas. During the level I played, I passed some people in a cage and was unsure how to free them, or if I was meant to. There were no quests given that mentioned these prisoners and they themselves did not cry out for help. Unfortunately for the prisoners, this meant I quickly bounced away and carried on, leaving them trapped forever. Furthermore, the lack of story made me quite unenthused about Sneaky Ninjas and after I had rung the gong, I wondered what it had all been for.
The art style Starfall Studios have used is extremely adorable, the drawings and animations are all rounded and the bright colours gives it an overall fun appeal. The soundtrack is also simple with Japanese undertones in each jingle. However, the soundtrack is sparse and the few tracks loop into an annoying tune thats grates after the first 20 minutes. Starfall Studios have also allowed players to choose between several graphical settings including Fast, Good, Beautiful or Fantastic (of course, I went for Fantastic!). Alas, the game denies you the ability to fine tune your graphical settings any further, as you are only able to choose between one of the above. Consequently, running in Fantastic meant the game ran at 1080p.
The simplicity of the game’s design is also its main problem; the several levels I experienced in the demo also lacked variation. The levels contained the same set of features such as, red mushrooms and wells. These components were reused and just placed in different locations. The uninspired environments made the game less exciting to play as the element of fun vanished. This was because the game lost its adventure theme as exploring became dull and I knew what to expect each time.
My final qualm with Sneaky Ninjas’ style was its inability to show players which platforms could be grabbed or climbed. In the demo, the tutorial was brief and didn’t show me many of the mechanics I could utilise. Furthermore, there was no implication of which platforms could be grabbed. This meant I was constantly jumping at ledges and hoping for the best. As you imagine, each jump or climb in Sneaky Ninjas became exasperating due to the possibility of being unfairly killed.
As Sneaky Ninjas is a 2D platformer, its gameplay mirrors the usual mechanics associated with the genre. Players can jump, climb and swing as they traverse from A to B. Sneaky Ninjas also introduces stealth mechanics so players can hide in grass, wells and bushes. Moreover, if players don’t want to take the stealthy approach they can hurt guards by shooting them with arrows, throwing shurikens, or by jumping on their heads.
Starfall Studios provides 3 different modes of gameplay. One mode is named ‘Ninja 101’ – this teaches you how to use the various mechanics and techniques that can be used throughout the game. The second is the main campaign, where players can enjoy the story. The final mode, ‘Platforming’, is focused on testing your abilities to move throughout the environment without worrying about enemies. The implementation of this last’ mode lengthens gameplay and keeps the fun going long after the campaign is completed.
To continue, each ninja has their own skill set so players can choose which playstyle they will prefer. For example, Kaida can slow down time whilst throwing projectiles or can throw two projectiles at once. Whereas another ninja, Taro, turns into a log when hit so he can escape danger. The special abilities each ninja has can only be used once the magic bar has been filled. This can be replenished via completing stealthy actions such as, taking guards down silently or sneaking past them.
One major issue I had with Sneaky Ninjas gameplay was with its mushrooms. These serve as a way for the player to ascend by bouncing on them, however, the mushrooms in the game do not always work as they should. When jumping on the mushrooms it was rare that they propelled my character into the air. On certain jumps my ninja would fly into the air and other times it took several attempts before my ninja finally moved. This fussy mechanic hilted gameplay dramatically and made something fun unnecessarily difficult and frustrating. On the bright side, whilst playing the Sneaky Ninjas demo, I did not experience any glitches within the game or framerate issues.
Conclusion – Is This Something To Watch?
Despite the above criticisms of Sneaky Ninjas, I would not rule this game out entirely. Starfall Studios are still in the process of working on this charming platformer so the above issues I experienced could all be ironed out when the game is released. Furthermore, the Studio has promised to add more levels and depth to the story, which should provide an overall fun experience. Those who enjoy a platforming challenge and want the ability to stealth in a 2D platformer, should keep an eye on Sneaky Ninjas as it could shape up to be a lot of fun!