Prior to this sort-of-console-port, my only experience with Eidos’ Mini Ninjas was with the console version on my Playstation 3. I remembered the game as a fun, albeit unremarkable, third-person action game. Don’t worry if you haven’t played the game, though, because the only relationship this app has with its console brother is in title and aesthetics. In other words, it’s a side-scrolling endless runner with the series’ titular ninjas thrown in.
As I was playing through the first few minutes of the game, I had a realization: “The endless runner is a simple beast. Lately, though, it seems that new endless runners are trying to not only eliminate the simplicity of the genre, but also trying to squeeze every dollar out of a game as they can.”
That’s Mini Ninjas in a nutshell. It’s got big talk, but it really has no substance. This became sorrowfully apparent after only two minutes. Hopefully, though, you’ll learn your lesson by the end of this review, and you won’t have to sit through this train wreck of a game.
Unfortunately, Mini Ninjas really couldn’t be more generic and blasé. It’s content to just use the basic endless runner framework, and do little, if nothing, else. Each run is a short burst of sidescrolling, obstacle avoiding, and enemy destroying monotony. Sure the game works, but that’s hardly a reason to give it a pat on the back and a gold star. The running feels so soulless that I took away no fun from playing the game.
The bad game play isn’t even the only failure; the game’s polish is lacking too. The character animations are gratingly jerky, making the ninjas act more like robots than fluid assassins. The enemy designs are boring, the power-ups are cheap and/or overpowered, and the running lacks excitement. Even the obstacles are bland (mostly consisting of boxes, spikes, and boulders). Oh, yeah, and obstacle hit-detection needs a few more coats of polish, as minuscule bumps on obstacles would register as a run-ending hit. Since the game was so awful, though, I found the end of each run to be a blessing in disguise.
It’s in the implementation of in-app-purchases that Mini Ninjas slams into the pavement the hardest. The in-game currency, coins, is nothing more than a front for the developers to put up an in-game store, waiting for players to get fed up with patient repetition and just drop real money for more virtual coin. Among other things, you can spend coins for an extra life during runs, spend coins to skip a waiting period while your upgrades are being crafted (“crafting” is code for “you have to wait until you can use this power-up, but you can always pay for it with real cash! [wink, wink]”), or spend coins on power-ups. It’s pretty sickening to see what “games” can get away with nowadays.
Are there any redeemable qualities to Mini Ninjas? Well, the art design is all right, I suppose. And the soundtrack isn’t that irritating. But come on, that’s just grasping at straws looking for positives now.
Mini Ninjas is an awful endless runner with a borrowed console title slapped on so as to give it some leverage. And boy, does it need leverage, since it’s a broken, unfun, mess in reality. If you’re looking for a good endless runner, look far away from here.