Ninja Stealth Missions is a “reach the goal” style puzzle game from Alchemy Games. In each level, you must guide your Ninja to the temple, helping him to either avoid or eliminate any obstacles in his way. The game is comprised of 70 levels (or missions), broken into 7 maps of 10 levels each (each presented as a house on the map). As you complete each level, the next house will be lit up and you can enter to play that level. Each map contains a running total as to the number of steps you took to complete that map, and upon completion you are rewarded with a mildly humorous animated sequence. When I initially tried this game, there was no way to skip a level and you were completely stalled (like I was at Mission 53). However, a recent update has added the ability to skip over problem levels.

Each level is comprised of a 10×12 grid. In short, you lay out the various objects (directional movement arrows, jumps, hooks, etc) on squares in that grid and press the Play button. Your Ninja will start walking, and won’t stop until he either reaches the temple, or gets killed/spotted by a trap or enemy. So at the start of each level, you need to lay out all of the tools to form a movement path that will allow your ninja to make his way safely to the temple.

The basic obstacles take the form of traps (retracting spikes/fires and holes), locked doors (for which you must pick up a key), and normal and spiked walls. There are also patrolling and stationary Samurai as well as ninja dogs looking for you. If they spot you, you have failed your mission. However, don’t give up hope just yet–you can make use of drugged sake and meat to cause them to sleep on the job, or make use of your smoke or stealth skill to sneak by them or even sneak up from behind and take them out.

Once you start moving, you will always walk forward and only turn once you hit a wall, but you can make use of directional arrows and hooks (to scale non-spiked walls) to modify your path. You can also use an hourglass to adjust your ninja timing (for traps and guards) and a trampoline to jump over holes.

At the start of each level, you will receive a certain array of these items–usually just enough to complete your mission, however sometimes you are given more than is necessary. If you fail your mission by getting caught or killed, the level will restart, and you can tweak your placement of items before hitting Play again. If you are stuck in an endless loop, you can restart the level at any time to adjust your item placement, or return to the level selection page.

The overall goal of the game is to try to complete each level in as few steps as possible. You will see your overall step count for each section in the top corner when selecting a level. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like you can re-play a level to reduce that count, as my step count for the “Underworld” map (where I was stuck on mission 53) is maxed out at 9999 steps due to my constant attempts. You can compare your scores with others on the per-map OpenFeint Leaderboards and there are 17 Achievements to unlock.

The game offers a nice mix of simple and challenging levels. While many of the levels I was able to quickly figure out a proper path for my Ninja, a few of the levels, I needed to come back to a few times before I was able to figure it out, and a couple took much, much longer.

In Conclusion

I found Ninja Stealth Missions to be quite entertaining and would definitely recommend it as a fun, challenging puzzle game. I originally requested to review this title because the screenshots and gameplay looked similar to Black Sheep (a game which I thoroughly enjoyed). One downside of Ninja Stealth Missions is that because my score is maxed out at 9999 on a particular map and there is no way for me to improve that, meaning I cannot improve my rating on the global leaderboards. This leaves little incentive for me to go back and replay completed missions. However, on a positive note, it was great to see the developer listen to feedback, and add the ability to skip over levels so that you can continue to enjoy new levels even if you are currently blocked by one. Ninja Stealth Missions usually retails for $1.99, but it is actually free today, so there’s no excuse not to grab a copy and put your ninja skills to the test!