Square Enix have released their popular platformer Mini Ninjas on iOS, turning the massive action-adventure into a side scrolling quest. Side scrolling games on iOS are generally a mixed bag, however Mini Ninjas hits the spot and is a great little game.
I recently reviewed Hell Yeah! Pocket Inferno, which is of the same side scrolling genre, unfortunately I was left a bit disappointed by the unresponsive character control, which made the game very difficult due to its constantly moving nature. Mini Ninjas does not have the same problem, it ticks all the boxes necessary for a great side scroller.
The game follows on from Square Enix’s massively popular console version of Mini Ninjas, with the same playable characters and same concept of innocent animals being turned into evil samurais. The game really isn’t story driven though, so there’s nothing stopping those who are new to the franchise jumping in and enjoying the game.
You play primarily as pint sized ninja Hiro, who is whisked via a portal at the start of each run from the safety of a quant village into dangerous territories occupied by a wide and varying network of enemy samurais, captured animals that need freeing, malevolent spirits and of course coins and collectables.
As is the norm with these types of games controls are simple to learn but take a while to master, with the left side of the screen making your constantly moving ninja jump and the right side of the screen being designated to slicing down oncoming enemies and obstructions.
Whilst the setting of the ‘levels’ vary between a handful of different backdrops really the runs are the same, with obstacles to jump over or slash through in order to get the longest run possible.
Alongside the constant objective of reaching the furthest distance there are objectives to complete, these are unique and generally don’t repeat themselves. For example some might ask you to kill a number of specific enemies in one run or it may ask you complete a certain amount of wall runs or it may actually ask you to be killed a number of times by a particular type of enemy.
The enemies you face vary greatly and they all pose a different challenge, rather than being cosmetic changes. Some are simply placed in front of you and slice you down if you do not avoid or kill them first, some jump as you do meaning you have to approach them more tactically and others float in front of you for awhile for unleashing a couple of different attacks, you must attempt to jump and kill them before they start their attacks as they become unreachable when they do.
On top of the wide variety of challenges that ensure the game doesn’t become boring despite its essentially repetitive gameplay there is a variety of playable characters. These characters cannot be chosen at the start of a run but are unlocked as you progress through a run, as they await in capture or in spirit form, if you jump into their path you then play as them for a short period.
Each character have particular strengths, Futo is a bruiser armed with an oversized hammer that can destroy rocks that stand in the path (normally you would have to jump over these), Suzume uses her flute to attract coins resulting in her becoming a coin magnet, finally there is Kunoichi who uses her naginata to float after jumping giving more air time and allowing to glide over extended obstacles that lay on the path.
These characters can be involved with objectives, as some challenge you to ‘eliminate 10 enemies with Kunoichi in mid-air’ for example, and provide a fresh approach to the game as you have to play to the characters strengths, adapting your playing style appropriately.
Throughout the game you can collect coins and ‘ingredients’. Both can be used in the Dojo, accessible in between runs, and can be made to purchase or ‘craft’ items. The crafting concept is a fresh one and enables to forge your own potions providing you have the right mixture of ingredients.
There are a number of these potions to buy or create and they all give unique abilities or different types of assistance on the run you take with them equipped. The Dojo also offers a number of outfits, these cosmetic changes don’t affect gameplay but some objectives require you to purchase and wear different garments.
Scrolls are also available from the Dojo, these affect another unique feature of the game, the Kuji bar. This bar runs along the top of the screen during the game and slowly gets filled as you play, things like killing enemies or freeing animals helps fill the bar. When full the bar gives you a special move, which can be purchased and changed from the Scrolls section in the Dojo. The moves vary from a Tornando that whisks you forward on the path to things that kill enemies and moves that protect your character from harm for an extended period.
All in all Mini Ninjas has all the qualities a good side scroller should, unique upgrades and unlockable content, a vast and extensive list of challenges and responsive controls that do not result in unnecessary deaths. On top of this there are a number of unique touches that make the game stand out from its rivals, all of which is bought together in beautiful detail with the simple and easy on the eye cartoon nature of the game.