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Ninjatown (DS) artwork

Ninjatown (DS) review


"Ninjatown has thrown me for a bit of a loop, so much so that I just know itís going to lead to the kind of introduction Iíve been trying to avoid for years, so I might as well get it out of the way early then sulk in the corner for a while. Here goes: Ninjatown has a cute, fluffy exterior that cunningly hides a devious centre."



Ninjatown has thrown me for a bit of a loop, so much so that I just know itís going to lead to the kind of introduction Iíve been trying to avoid for years, so I might as well get it out of the way early then sulk in the corner for a while. Here goes: Ninjatown has a cute, fluffy exterior that cunningly hides a devious centre.

I think they revoke your reviewing license for being that clichť. Letís move on with haste.

Olí Master Ninja is a little cranky and a lot senile, but heís competent which puts him ahead of the Mayor, who sees the invading armies of wee devils not as a threat to his town, but as an excuse to lament the lack of welcoming ceremony. Itís not the first time Mr. Demon has shown an unhealthy interest in obtaining the townís secret cookie recipe, something he plans to steal, then flood the market with shoddy, second-rate knock-offs, demolishing the townís chief export and making himself millions in the process. Protecting the cookies falls on Olí Master Ninjaís hunched shoulders, but heís not without help.

His chief ability is to order builder ninjas to build huts in key positions along the demon armyís attack routes. To begin with, things are kept to the very basic: black-clad wee ninjas are the staple of his defence, kung-fu machines that have honed their body in all manner of ninjaing while ones covered in orange garb (in a not-so-subtle jab at Naruto) are anti-ninjas, warriors who turned their nose up at stealth-training techniques in order to become lumbering powerhouses instead. At first, all that needs to be done is build huts around key defensive positions to keep the invading forces at bay. Building huts costs cookies, and you can increase your funds by mowing down more devils. Itís a simple premises: enemies arrive at one side of the map and you have to stop them making their way to the other side with a small army of chibi ninjas.

As the funds start rolling in, your initial decisions are limited between your two flavour of ninja and whether you should splash out on new huts or upgrade your existing ones. Then new enemies start stomping in and youíre forced to employ new ninja sets to defeat them. Flying devils cannot be harmed by foot soldiers so the inclusion of green ninja armed with pea-shooters becomes necessary; extreme sport-loving devils that start surging through your ranks aided by energy drinks and aero-dynamic safely helmets need to be slowed by ice ninja who hurl snowballs that trap targets in a solid block of ice. Business ninja can enter the fray to whack their demon equivalent with mobile phones, hopped up on enough caffeine to double their speed and let their ninja neckties stream behind them.

But the odds continue to stack. Fatter, stronger devils start to arrive in bulk, tearing through ill-prepared defences with depressing ease while zombie ninja flood the scene with overwhelming numbers. Soon, stat-buffing architecture is made available; dojos that improve the attack power of the huts that boarder them, or guard towers that boost the range of your snipers. Olí Masterís senility is counteracted by the in-depth research of the Ninja Consultant who, armed with pie charts and wi-fi, grants you abilities like blowing back the enemy by siphoning the cranksterís hatred of young people trampling his lawn, or having him employ a magnifying glass from the lofty heights of his hot air balloon to fry unwary foes down below.

Maps become more complex, throwing in less room to build huts or multiple routes to safeguard. Winged devils become devils in balloons of their own, ones armed with cannons, while small, slimy devils split into as many as four mini versions of themselves when struck down. Your own bow-armed forest ninjas are captured and transformed into dark ninjas who hurl globs of poison from afar, infecting anyone they strike. Bonuses are sometimes provided after beating a level, giving you the option to trap foes in a temporary circle of cuteness should you drop a cooing ninja baby into the fray, or leech away at their health instead with a poignant ninja dropping.

Routes that canít have huts built upon are lined with cannons that need to be fired with precise timing by a general who then has to take his eye completely off the battlefield to light fuses and blast targets. Boulder-sized globs of syrup fall from the sky to destroy random huts placed around the battlefield, forcing frantic rebuilds in the midst of heated battles. Boss demons regularly stride through the ranks or stand guard just outside the hutís range, dancing and mocking. Devils armed with soaker packs drench ninja in goo, reducing their movements so their speedier ranks can slip through unhindered.

Failures to defend are not punished, though are ended with a gloating Mr Demon smirking at his cages of captured wee ninja as he munches away at his shuriken-shaped cookies with glee. Continue to fail at any given point, and the game gives you the pride-breaking opportunity to try the stage again in easy mode, though, here, you can gain no higher than an E-grade. You can track back to any stage to try and obtain a gloat-worthy A as you formulate new ideas and strategies to repel your evil invaders.

Some of the stages are tough, but, without the devious centre, the cute, fluffy exterior would be nothing but an overly cuddly collection of internet meme wrapped up in an adorable graphical sheen. Ninjatown knows exactly what it is, but isnít content to just go out and have fun with it, but injects a healthy dosage of challenge to go along with the goofy cut scenes where the demon army is judged to have a power-level over 9000 or special bonus powers like dropping Ninja Consultant into the fray to boost the morale of your forces with carefully-researched statistical lectures, or even the special kind of gloating the ninja revel in once they beat off an army or pirate devils. It would have been easy to tip the scales too far either way, but Ninjatown exhibits extraordinary balance. Like any good ninja should.

Rating: 8/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (November 17, 2008)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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