Mark of the Ninja Review
Rewarding gameplay and clever stealth mechanics make Mark of the Ninja an experience to remember.
- Excellent controls and a wide range of abilities
- Well-designed levels with increasing difficulty
- Hidden artifacts and challenge rooms encourage replay
- Memorable visuals and story-based cinematics.
- Far sight ability disrupts the momentum.
The stealth genre has brooded in the shadows for many years, coming out only for a handful of memorable games before slinking back into the darkness. It's out again with Mark of the Ninja, but Klei Entertainment's new creation abandons the 3D conventions of most stealth games for a simpler 2D platforming framework that takes the genre in an exciting new direction. It's a ninja game that remembers that ninjas are supposed to be invisible masters of the shadows, not sword-swinging brawlers like their samurai cousins, and its attention to stealth design pervades every moment of gameplay. Fluid controls make combat and movement flow as smoothly as a well-crafted haiku, and brutal assassinations add gravity to the comic-styled visuals. Rich and lengthy levels demand full use of the powers at your disposal, and a somber and minimalistic musical score adds tension to every step.
The hero is the Kratos of ninjas, a scowling, silent type wrapped with red tattoos that give him greater powers than his shadowy brethren. There's a catch, of course: the marks may eventually drive him insane. He's occasionally accompanied by a female accomplice who drops hints and tutorial advice as the two prowl through fanciful Asian urbanscapes and Eastern European castles on the heels of a bad guy in a business suit with a Russian accent. The story is strangely compelling despite its lightweight exposition, told as it is through competently voiced animated cutscenes that look like they were pulled from lost episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, although it ultimately serves little more purpose than providing context for your actions. The rest of the story reveals itself through tidbits dropped by your female accomplice (who's a bit on the cynical side), and still other narrative touches are found in the scrolls hidden in the nooks and crannies of each level, but nothing defines the experience so much as the ninja's unrelenting pursuit of justice in the game itself.
Mark of the Ninja's controls are unfailingly responsive, and few platformers have handled stealth mechanics with such facility. In its best moments, it's a work of kinetic poetry, with the ninja climbing walls, flying between platforms with grappling hooks, and sneaking into vents only milliseconds before a deadly laser sweeps around or before he's revealed by the flashlights of a patrolling guard. Evasion is key, as highlighted by the scorecard at the end of each round that awards points for remaining undetected and keeping all the guards alive.
Hiding places abound, such as doorways and potted plants that the ninja can flit between with a tap of the B button, which helps if you've accidentally triggered an alarm and need to hide while the alert dies down. You also find plenty of uses for unlockable tools such as smoke bombs that disrupt trigger beams and noisemakers that distract guards, although you're limited to using only two of these "ninja tools" besides the default (and limitless) wooden darts. If you want to change your loadout, you have to stumble across one of the rare kiosks or wait until the end of the level to switch them out or spend points on new tools.
Mark of the Ninja best quality is that it almost always gives you a choice between murder and avoidance, such as when it seems like the only way around a wall of lasers is to kill a patrolling guard and drag his body under them to deactivate the sensors. Look long enough, though, and you sometimes find a ventilation shaft hidden behind a movable crate that lets you bypass the obstacle altogether. Often, though, moving in for the kill is quicker; done right, stealth assassinating the majority of guards is a rewarding affair of sneaking up on them, clicking X, and following a directional prompt based on your position.
It appears the paragraph breaks are not preserved, so this has become a huge block of text. Drat. Having played much of the way through this game, I'd like to add the observation that the production value is right off the chart. Lightning strobes everything into stark, flickering visibility. Rain drops splash wetly, footsteps clang jarringly from within air ducts. The visual cues are fun to read and the overall presentation of an environment the hero can only partially perceive is just brilliant. When a guard is out of our ninja's sight, for example, we get a visual representation of what the ninja hears in the form of noise circles and a ghostly image of where the ninja supposes the guard must be, what he last saw in the form of a hazy frozen sprite, and related visual clues like the beam of a flashlight shining through a crack in the vent. This game is a joy to play, although I have found the controls a bit tricky at times. Chalk it up to my inexperience playing side scrolling games with a thumb stick if you like, but I find my ninja frequently responds to an input I didn't mean to enter. I really wish this were a PS3 game that used the D-pad for character movement. This is the type of game I wish Other M had been - an ultra refined side scrolling platformer built upon decades of experience with such games, not a credible attempt to create a new style of gameplay. I cannot describe the delight it would bring me to hear that these masters were to produce the next Metroid game. But I digest. From the perspective of one who has made it a lifelong point to produce and value great writing, I will say this review was clearly written, totally fair to the game, and unlikely to sail over the head of anyone who could reasonably be expected to read it. I've come to GameSpot first for years because I can count on sophisticated, informed reactions that are presented with a lot more skill than most other web writing. I do not think Mr Johnson was overly florid or oven noticeably less direct than what I've come to expect from GameSpot. Like every game I love, I wish this one were longer, but the price was fair, especially when you factor how carefully polished the entire game is. I hope for more levels in the form of DLC. I would smugly pay $1 per additional level. Matt Minneapolis
Loving this game, though I am still trying to figure out if its better to sneak past everyone or kill everyone... both seem to reward you.
so this is Shank the ninja Style or maybe it's closer to Shinobi games?(i mean old shinobi games)also does this come out on PC?
@HKILLER88888 a better example would be tengu. The stealth mechanics is quite similiar with TC splinter cell mobile/portable version, using shadow and objects as cover.
Just want to say one thing. The review cites the 'farsight' ability as a problem. I've finished the game and I activated it twice. Once to see how it looked and once for a puzzle. You don't need it at all and it disrupts nothing. If you couldn't see without it; your gamma setting was too low.
Regardless of whether this game is any good, the review stinks. The only reason why reviews are written in such a wordy manner is to hide something; Rolling Stone does it all the time to either cover up the fact that they think a good album is bad or a bad album is good.
I personally can't trust a review with such pretensious language. We need to be told in plain language, not prose and flowery comparison.
That said, with what my simple mind could gather, the game sounds quite interesting.
@Apathetic_Prick The language of this review is perfectly clear. Any good critic understands that the tone of your language--your choice of words, the structure, the flow--communicates as much as the information within, whether consciously or subconsciously. When writing about a game with a fluid feel, I try to use fluid prose that matches the tone of the game; when writing about a game that has a punchier tone, I try to use shorter, harsher words.
We trust our audience, their comprehension levels, and their standards for written language, and believe that our readers deserve more than just a bunch of dry information about a game. We don't want to sacrifice clarity for the sake of language, of course, but there isn't a word or phrase in this review that doesn't communicate something about the author's feelings about the game.
I'd be interested in hearing which sentences or paragraphs were so opaque that you felt like the review was trying to "cover something up."
@Apathetic_Prick As a writer, the balance between flowery prose and simplified language can be a hard one to find. The more refined the words you use, the more precise your definition is, and therefore you are better understood by those with the propensity to comprehend. As you pointed out though, you may also potentially ostracize part of your audience, by not appealing to the common denominator.
I once saw a guy at a poetry reading who pointed out that the best poetry was that which everyone could understand, because that meant that you were getting your point across. He said it so disdainfully though, inferring that he thought little of 'flowery prose'.
So I guess it's possible to be a pretentious d$#k no matter what style of language you use.
@Apathetic_Prick "Pretentious" is a word that stupid people use to describe things they don't understand.
@Apathetic_Prick Or you could try the demo and form your own opinion.
This is where the 360's exclusives shine, in Xbox Live Arcade. Most of the exclusive arcade games that are any good are so good, in fact, that they easily compete with full retail games. I only found out about this game when I saw it advertised on the 360's dashboard. A game this awesome should definitely not slip under the radar. Imo, this game should've been part of the "Summer of Arcade" promotion instead of Wreckateer or Tony Hawk. This is easily in the top 5 all-time greatest XBLA games.
In my opinion, thank you Klei Entertainment for finish developing Mark of the Ninja, because Shank and Shank 2 were disappointments.
It's a great game, but a 1200 MS point ask is WAY too big. If this were out 2-3 years ago, this would be a steal. Now, I expect something much bigger and more visually pleasing.
@JustArtificial If you think $15 is "WAY" to much for this game then you're just "WAY" to damn cheap! This game is easily in the TOP 5 best XBLA games of all time. I think you're just a PS fanboy that is looking any any little thing to knock this game because you can't play it.
@JustArtificial I disagree. Considering this adds just as much play-time as games seeling for $60, I'd consider the price more on the awesome side. You simply don't like the game because it's 2D and you want Metal Gear Solid for $10.
@JustArtificial And healthcare, education, and dental, should all be free too, right? Seriously, in the real world, there is no such thing as a free lunch. This looks like solid entertainment for the price.
@JustArtificial 5-10 hours the first time through. New game Plus. Different outfits to allow for different play styles and plenty of gadgets to try out. Score incentives for no-kill runs. Smooth controls and nice visuals. And it's still too expensive at a measly $15? C'mon... There were games like Deadlight that were far shorter with almost zero replay value for the same price. This one's a steal for any stealth fan.
@Carpetfluff @JustArtificial Agree, $15 seems really fair, maybe even a steal at that price and that amount of stuff in it. And besides, we've got to support indie devs even if it was a bit too pricey, but if the content is great, I'll be glad to give my money and support them so that they could bring us more quality games in the future.
Boom another great indie game on xbla, probably get this on steam but not sure i could not be "part of the conversation" with this game, also as a MEGA FAnboy go play playstation home
Any chance this may come to the PC? I do have an Xbox but it's connected to the brazilian Xbox live, so I don't get most of the current arcade releases there. Even worse with Psn by the way, which is almost empty.
@kkxtrouble I downloaded the demo on my xbox and live in Brazil. My xbox live account is brazilian too.
@kkxtrouble xbla is available for all regions.
Do they steal American's organs in Brazil? Is it safe to visit?
@sayoose We'll steal all your organs buddy. If you got any questions about Brazil you should ask Chael Sonnen ( pre Anderson match) he knows all about the country.
@kkxtrouble i am a brazilian too, i have like 3 psn accounts but i dont know about live...