I picked up Mini Ninjas as part of the Eidos bundle during last years Steam Holiday Sale and never gave it any thought. When the class was told we had to play a game we’d never played before for 10 minutes I spotted it on my Steam list and decided to give it a go. I’m really happy I did!
The game starts with a really, really neat looking opening cinematic. The whole thing looks like a moving painting. In it my character was introduced as the last hope the ninja had to overcome some really bad dudes. It went on for a minute or two but it didn’t drag on or make me want to search for a skip button. The screen then cut to a camera looking at my ninja hanging out in his house and left me in control while the narrator said something to the effect of “get going”. And get going I did, right out the door and into a little more exposition by my master telling me to go finish training at the dojo.
Running around in this game feels really great. The main character’s moves are downright whimsical and I found myself running and jumping in circles because it looked so good. Downhill seemed like a happening place, so I ran (frolicked) down to a small village inhabited by strange bird-ninjas who, too, told me to get to the dojo. The valley I found myself in seemed pretty wide- but it was clear where to go because cliff faces blocked most everywhere but the correct path off.
So I ran to the dojo and once again was surprised at just how great this game looks. Another weird bird-ninja was waiting for me at the dojo. He had a yellow exclamation mark above his head and looked important so I approached him. He introduced some basic combat moves: swinging my sword, jumping up and then swinging my sword, and of course, kicking things and then swinging my sword at them . After a quick chat he summoned some angry looking bird-ninjas and I got to test out my exciting new moves and it felt good. Birds were squawking, feathers were flying, and my ninja was grunting his little heart out.
My bird-sensei congratulated me and reminded me how great I am. I wanted to ask why I was the only not-bird around but he was too busy teaching me a helpful new trick. I could now press E to have the ninja-gods guide me and summon a little compass to direct me towards my next goal; finding my ninja-friend who had ran off to eat apples. Awesome! So I got right to it and the most cheerful arrow I have seen in some time appeared above my head and pointed out the door and down a path.
I followed the arrow through some more beautiful valleys and found a trail of apple cores leading up a mountain. Along the way more bird-ninjas attacked me and more bird-ninjas squawked in despair as I kicked them in the stomach. Combat feels great. The trail of apples lead me over, and along, rock walls and the game displayed text outlining how to navigate each obstacle. It was all very intuitive. Hit spacebar whenever you want your little ninja-legs to carry you over some treacherous obstacle. Climbing and wall running were easy to pull off and looked really nice.
Finally I found my friend and we were transported back to the dojo so I could learn some more moves. I was instructed to ruin a few more bird-ninja’s day’s- this time as my friend. He’s considerably larger than any other ninja and swinging a giant mallet into flocks of bird-ninja sent oodles of feathers into the air. After I was done causing a ruckus I switched back to my main ninja and was sent off to learn a new trick. I had my arrow friend on speed dial and made frequent use of him as I ran through the woods to a cave, making sure to thoroughly trounce any bird-ninjas that came by.
My 10-ish minutes was turning into 15 minutes but I had to press on because ninja magic. Inside the cave I was taught by another bird-ninja how to project my ninja-spirit into animals. I can’t figure out why I do this, but “why?” is not a question you ask when you are using a ninja-spirit to control a cute little bunny. After hopping in circles for a while I decided I had to pull myself away from the keyboard before I hopped all of my time away.
Here’s a short video I recorded showing how great this game looks in motion.