Ninjatown (DS) review
"Everyone knows about Ninjas. Their infamous reputation precedes them everywhere. If you close your eyes, you can probably picture one in your mind. Clad entirely in black, they're a short, round people with no discernible hands or feet. Their society resides in small, colored huts based on their station and they all survive by eating delicious shuriken-cookies, which also double as a form of currency. ...Wait, what?"
Everyone knows about Ninjas. Their infamous reputation precedes them everywhere. If you close your eyes, you can probably picture one in your mind. Clad entirely in black, they're a short, round people with no discernible hands or feet. Their society resides in small, colored huts based on their station and they all survive by eating delicious shuriken-cookies, which also double as a form of currency.
Alright, so Ninjatown presents Ninjas as cuddly little fellows that enjoy baking and wear ties to work atop their ninja bodysuits. It's certainly nonstandard, but this doesn't encroach their ability to kick some ass when the time comes.
You see, Mr. Demon is kind of a jerk. He wants to steal the ninjas' cookie recipe for himself, producing his own second-hand ninja cookies, saturating the market and reducing demand enough to ruin the ninja way of life. At first this seems ridiculous, but it's actually pretty reasonable. Remember, he's facing a town populated entirely by ninjas, so obviously he can't just kill them.
So instead he sends a parade of his lackeys into town to steal the recipe. Quite literally, they march into your city single file, following the roads with a level of single minded purpose that puts the mind more to ants than demons. The ninja mayor wants to welcome them into your city, perhaps shake their hands and give them the keys to the city in some welcoming ceremony. The mayor is, however, clearly an idiot, and so the only person who can coordinate the ninja counterattack is Ol' Master Ninja. You can tell he's old because of his Gandalf-beard.
He fights back by placing buildings along the demons' route of attack. These buildings spawn ninjas of varying types and specialties to fight back, and the goal is to kill all the demons before they reach the other end of the path. It's classic tower defense. The idea is so basic and straightforward that it shouldn't be as fun as it is.
Each unit, both friend and foe, have their own attributes, and it's important to keep these in mind when plotting your defense. Business ninja have a caffeine addiction that keeps them quick on their feet, but pagers don't make effective weapons, so they do little to deter the advance of some of the heftier demon types. You need to fall back on Anti-Ninja for them, so named for the bright orange jumpsuits they wear as they busily forsake stealth in order to hit things really hard instead. It's decisive proof that Naruto is, in fact, not a ninja.
There are other units as well, some are just average units with no specialty. Some are there to take down flying units or slow down demons with ninja snowballs. There are even buildings that modify the attributes of nearby buildings, increasing the speed or the attack power or the range of their ninjas. All of this equals a good deal of customisation, letting you tackle the problem in the way you feel best addresses the situation.
Do you swarm with weak ninja, or spend a lot of cookies to build really powerful units? Do you attack from a safe distance, or wade into battle, soaking damage? The choice is yours, but it's easy to fail with a single misplaced building.
Luckily, if things get too rough on your forces, Ol' Master Ninja can help from his vantage point on a hot-air balloon far above the battle. Special powers allow you to push the encroaching demons back with a mighty gust of wind or destroy them by focusing a beam of sunlight through a magnifying glass. These powers effectively combat the biggest flaw with tower defense games as well as your on-screen foes. Most of the time, once the enemy comes, you watch and wait, hoping that your setup is strong enough to repel the invasion. But in Ninjatown, you can actively fight the enemy back.
Really the only glaring fault in Ninjatown is its lack of replay value. It's a lot of fun. Once. You have a simple little game that'll suck you in and keep you playing from beginning to end, but once you've finished, you've finished. It might be worth another look sometime down the road when the jokes will be a little fresher for a second run. But until then, it might be better to hope for a sequel.
Freelance review by Josh Higley (December 08, 2008)
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