I don’t tend to play a lot of stealth games. In real life, I’m a pretty impatient person, and in video games, I’m even worse. And when I do play stealth games, I tend to play them in ways they aren’t designed—Sam Fisher was pretty mad at me for how many people I was killing out in the open in Splinter Cell: Conviction.
Mark of the Ninja is a different stealth game, however. For starters, it’s in 2D, which means you play by going left or right or up and down across one plane of view. While at first it sounds like this wouldn’t even work, not only does it, but for the first time ever, I feel like I played a stealth game that was fair.
I never felt the AI was cheating. I could see the sound my feet made when I ran because circles engulfed my character—if one of those circles reached a guard, they could hear me. I would know whether or not they saw me, if the triangle emulating from their eyes was in view of me. I could even tell if dogs smelled me if the circles coming from around their body ever encompassed me.
Mark of the Ninja is a stealth game that is not only fair, but almost seems designed for terrible stealth players such as myself.
Because for a ninja… in close combat, you kind of suck. Then again, most of the time, you’re going up against pretty heavy weaponry.
The plot of the game is revenge. (Of course.) And then, kind of revenge again. I won’t spoil the ending, but the vast majority of the game has you seeking revenge on bad guys who attacked you. The overall look of the game remains the same, even as the settings change. The animated cut scenes kind of look like animation from Who Framed Roger Rabbit—if there was more blood. A lot more blood.
Make no mistake: while you can play the entire game without killing anyone, if you don’t do that, there’s a lot of blood and violence. The close-up kills when you perform assassinations are smooth, fluid and always varied. Just make sure you hide the body afterwards. (Unless you need to drag it to turn off a laser.)
The developers of Mark of Ninja, Klei Entertainment, do a fantastic job of teaching the player the various tools and weapons at your disposal throughout the game. But eventually, they let go and let you approach each waypoint/mission objective (with a very helpful map you can always access) the way you want to. The guards change, the booby-traps become harder to fool and you’ll even lose your weapon at one point—but it’s ok, they’ve been teaching you the whole game how to play the way you want to.
You can even eventually add new power-ups and tactics. I tended to go for the ones that increased my health and ability to run more quietly, as well as kill from behind objects, but that represented barely a quarter of all those available. (If you want them all, you’ll need to play New Game Plus.)
By the end of the game however, I was climbing, running or teleporting because the bad guys became that difficult. But again—I’m pretty impatient of a player.
The storyline resolves itself quite nicely and the game, at about four or five hours, never felt too long or too short. It felt about right. Even though there was a “choice” in the finale, it unfortunately had no other ramifications other than what I’ll have to assume was a slightly different cut scene.
That anomaly aside, this easily is my favorite XBLA game of the summer—well, now technically the fall. An engaging storyline, near pitch perfect gameplay mechanics and plenty of choices in how you make the approach, make Mark of the Ninja a must download… even for those impatient, non-stealth fans like me.
It’s only fair you give this game a shot.
You can learn more about Mark of the Ninja at http://biy.ly/xboxninja and purchase it for your XBOX for 1200 Microsoft Points.
* Full disclosure: A free copy of the game was provided for download to the reviewer by Klei Entertainment. *