While hitmen and ninjas might seem to have a lot in common when you first think about it, their relationship gets a bit more complicated when you look at it from the perspective of Danish developer Io Interactive. This team created the critically acclaimed and thoroughly morbid Hitman series of games, but for its latest project, the team has switched over to something altogether different with Mini Ninjas. This action adventure game has you taking control of a team of adorable ninjas as they travel through a seemingly serene world on the brink of ruin courtesy of an evil samurai warlord. We've previously seen a good chunk of the game as demoed by a member of Io, but we've recently been able to get our hands on Mini Ninjas for ourselves.
Much of what we saw in the early goings of this demo was taken from our previous look. It began with an introduction to the central protagonist Hiro, a cute little ninja made unique by his rare ability to use kuji magic. This grants him special combat abilities, such as freezing time to queue up attacks on enemies, and the power to transform into wild animals to disguise himself from enemies. Hiro is later joined by Futo, a lumbering oaf with a giant hammer, and Kuzume, a lady ninja who seems like an expert martial artist.
The game's combat is simple and ultimately nonviolent. You'll use a combination of light brawling, stealth, and magic techniques to take out the enemy samurais tormenting the local countryside. Every enemy you defeat turns into an animal that scampers off into the bushes. As it turns out, the evil samurai warlord has possessed the spirits of all kinds of animals to do his bidding.
Getting in touch with your natural surroundings plays a big role in the way you progress through the world. If you're low on health after a long battle, you'll need to find a berry bush or an apple tree to eat in order to restore yourself to fighting condition. Taking the form of an animal will grant you special scent abilities to sniff out key ingredients for spells and potions, whereas hiding in tall grass lets you stay unseen when you'd rather avoid a fight entirely.
Throughout the game, you'll always be going from one samurai castle to another, taking on a series of bosses as you go from point to point. The last time we saw Mini Ninjas, we saw a boss wielding a giant sword, and we had to trick him into getting it stuck in a wooden pillar so we could climb onto his head to whack his face until he gave in to us. This time, the boss we saw had a different weapon: extreme flatulence. Yes, the game has a quirky sense of humor, and nowhere has that been more evident than with this boss. He basically shoots waves of noxious, heat-seeking fart clouds at you that will follow your every move. The key here is to lure the fart clouds right back at the boss in order to defeat him.
Overall, Mini Ninjas looks like a promising entry in the field of family-friendly action adventure games. It's a genre filled to the brim with licensed movie tie-ins, so seeing something original like Mini Ninjas is obviously quite refreshing. The game seems easy to pick up and play, while the serene, cartoonlike art design is awfully easy on the eyes. We should have more on Mini Ninjas leading up to its late 2009 release.