In honor of the game's Steam release, here is a quick video review of Mark Of The Ninja. Enjoy.
Mark of the Ninja is an action stealth game that puts you in the Ninja Tabi of a nameless killing machine that has magic tattoos that grant him special abilities...alright so it's not the most realistic premise but you should stick around for the whole review before you go making rash decisions about this particular title.
First, let's start off with the official game description: (read Steam Description)
It seems like the stealth genre is just one of those beasts that nobody can tame. While Konami's had luck with its Metal Gear series, nobody seems to be able to hit a home run when it comes to making a stealth action game in a 2D, side scrolling space. Mark of the Ninja though...yeah...we finally have a winner. The controls are super responsive, the player character is amazingly agile and versatile and the enemy AI is smart enough to be a challenge while also being surmountable.
As you may have guessed, you play a ninja. A HUMAN ninja. You're not a guns blazing Delta Squad member, you're not a bullet sponge space marine, you-are-a-ninja. If you take one or two bullets and you're also a dead man. You're best weapons are darkness and discretion. That's not to say you don't have plenty of other tricks in your ninja tool-belt as well. There are bamboo darts, caltrops, spike traps, a sword and even a few other weapons that make Mark of the Ninja a unique and true joy to play. One of these unexpected and innovative weapons is fear. You're able to dispatch your enemies in some rather macabre ways, which will cause onlookers to become immediately terrified and react in unpredictable ways. They will fall off of ledges, cower in corners and even open fire on friendly comrades.
Now that we've talked about the various weapons at your disposal, let's talk about how you use of them dictates your score for a level. As a ninja extraordinaire your job isn't only to kill the opposition, it's to kill with efficiency and style. Sure, you could clear a room by sneaking up to every guard and send him to his maker, or you could distract him by throwing a dart at a gong, string him up from a lamp post, drop his body in front of an unsuspecting guard and terrify that guard into shooting everyone else in the room just before he turns the gun on himself. All of these actions lead up to big points, which leads to better evaluations at the end of each level. On top of that, the game tends to know what's fun and what isn't. If you make one little screw up when trying to take down an enemy or jump a gap, you won't have lose half an hour of progress, you'll respawn just a few yards away to try again. This encourages experimentation and trying various solutions to solve a problem and maximize your score.
Now, this wouldn't be a fair review if it didn't harp on the things that Mark of the Ninja does wrong. The list may be short, but it's a list none-the-less. Let's start with hiding enemy bodies. There are a series of access ducts and pathways in each level that enable the player character to get around the environment. One of the useful aspects of these ducts is to hide enemy bodies. Well, some of these ducts are small enough that getting an enemy body into them can sometimes prove challenging, and there are even times where finally getting the body into the area will not award the bonus points for hiding the body.
Although it's more of a design choice, it's a little annoying to have to scavenge each level for hidden scrolls, without any kind of clue or locator to assist you. While this isn't a huge problem, there were a couple of scrolls that seem like their placement was trying to play a trick on the player rather than encouraging exploration. Game FAQs was needed to find one particular scroll after hours of searching, and once it was found, it did not grant a sense of accomplishment or evoke an "ah ha" moment, it just brought on a "How the hell was I ever supposed to find that?" moment.
While it ultimately ends up being a "worth it" experience, the story of Mark of the Ninja is largely forgettable. The end is enjoyable, but everything leading up to that point simply feels like unnecessary filler.
There is also the occasional camera issue where you'll be standing on a roof or platform with enemies just outside or below of camera shot because the camera is zoomed in too far or is centered on some other point of interest. While you are able to pan the camera slightly, an adjustable camera zoom would have been greatly appreciated.
There...that's it. No, seriously. That's our biggest complaints with the game. When you can have such a minor list of complains with a title, that's what we call a great game that begs to be played.
While some may argue the play time is a little short, that complaint is quelled with challenge rooms and the increased difficulty of New Game Plus. This is one of those titles where you'll feel compelled to unlock every achievement, and revel in doing so. Mark of the Ninja manages to accomplish something many other games have failed to do in the past. Actually, it accomplishes three things that video games often struggle to do. Be a highly enjoyable 2D stealth action game, makes you feel like an effing Ninja and earn a coveted 5 out of 5.