The Average Gamer

Mark of the Ninja Review (XBLA)

Stealth games. Not many quality ones about of late, are there? Fear not, Mark of the Ninja is here to fill that gap with aplomb. Mark of the Ninja comes at the back end of a mediocre Summer of Arcade and blows all those titles away.

This is a stealth game in the truest sense of the word. Brilliantly realised against the fall of night, your twinkle-toed ninja deftly makes his way between and through buildings littered with armed guards. The aim is of course to get from point A to point B successfully, but just how successfully you achieve this is up to you. This is the beauty of MotN; you may choose to stealth-kill your way through or, skills permitting, you may choose to escape totally unseen.

Much like the similar scenarios presented in Arkham Asylum, you can perfect the art of stealth so no one even knew you were there. With a category of items for distraction available, such as chemical flares, noise makers, you can even manipulate unsuspecting guards into the position(s) you desire. The ability to hide behind pots with guards just walking on by, and navigating through laser beams with only a couple of seconds available can make for some tense moments.

The greater the stealth, the more secrets you can unlock, such as better weapons, story scrolls, which are cleverly narrated seamlessly into the action as you go. Unlike your Metal Gear Solids and your Arkham Asylums however, once you are seen, there is almost no chance of survival, and any gung ho tactics will result in almost instant death. These guards are efficient and lethal, but there for the taking.

Mark of the Ninja is a simple looking game, mostly black in colour, but has great lighting effects and noise indicators, so you’ll learn to stop rushing about or risk being heard. The majority of the navigation inside the buildings is through tunnels, with each entrance/exit allowing you to take a peek into the room at the touch of a button without fear of being spotted. This is not only a nice touch, but also essential; if a door is closed, the room before you is pitch black, so a quick assessment is required. Your ninja can climb almost any wall or ceiling, and also zip from ledge to ledge, should the surroundings provide them. For such a simple game to pick up, Mark of the Ninja has brilliant depth and an excellent learning curve.

I’m usually terrible at stealth, but like Deus Ex Human Revolution, it subtly teaches you the art, importance and rewards of stealth. In between each level are brief cut scenes reminiscent of the classic Cartoon Network series Samurai Jack, which are another nice touch. All this, along with an Arkham Asylum-esque stealth brain, makes for the complete stealth package, and at just over a tenner (1200 MSP), is an absolute bargain.

For those missing their stealth pound of flesh, Mark of the Ninja will be right up their street. Not only that, it excels in its level design, atmosphere and execution. With a perfect learning curve that will adapt even the worst (i.e. me) of stealth gamers into a bonafide ninja, this game is a success on all fronts. Go get it.

Mark of the Ninja is out now on XBLA and coming to Steam on 16th October.

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