When an evil warlord sells his soul to rule feudal Japan, a young ninja emerges to battle the army of trolls, goblins, and evil spirits he unleashes. To defeat the warlord, you must utilize your fists, feet, and magical powers to traverse ten deadly levels, filled with merciless enemies and treacherous physical hazards.
Unlike another recent ninja title, Activision's excellent Tenchu: Stealth Assassins, Eidos's Ninja: Shadow of Darkness makes no attempt at strategy; rather, it is an arcade-style beat-em-up that harks back to such relics as Double Dragon or Streets of Rage. Although the graphics are three-dimensional, the play mechanics remain roughly the same (walk right, kick the snot out of a couple of guys, walk right...).
Core gamely attempts to mix things up by throwing in some wicked physical hazards, cool-looking ninja spells, and simple puzzle elements, but it's not enough to make Ninja more than a prospective rental. Although the game's dynamic camera does a good job of following the action, the control is stiff, resulting in numerous accidental deaths. Worse, your physical attacks are limited to simple kicks and punches; you can't even throw anybody! And you can forget about smacking somebody upside the head with a fire hydrant or an engine block (never mind the fact they didn't have fire hydrants or engine blocks in feudal Japan) like you could in another recent Eidos title, Fighting Force. At best, you may come across a sword or smoke bomb.
Despite its best efforts, Eidos is cementing its reputation as a one-franchise company. A few more stumbles like Ninja: Shadow of Darkness, and the house that Lara built could come tumbling down as quickly as it was erected.