Most 2-D side-scrolling ninja games (like Shinobi or Ninja Gaiden) require you to dash madly into enemy territory slashing at everything in sight. But few have explored the other significant side of ninjas: they hide in the shadows and remain unseen. But with Mark of the Ninja, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing in this unique 2-D stealth title, downloadable on Xbox LIVE.
In the game you’ll play as a ninja warrior who must infiltrate enemy territory to complete your missions. You can do all the things a video game ninja is expected to do, like run, jump, climb walls, throw projectiles, and slash enemies. You also have a grappling hook for reaching hard to reach places.
But in every inch of the game, the emphasis is on stealth. You’ll want to stay in the shadows and not get in the light or you’ll be seen. Hide in air vents or behind objects and in doorways to creep by undetected. You can throw projectiles to take out lights, alarms, and distract guards. When you do have to take out a guard, you can sneak behind him and if you press the right direction with the X button, you can kill him quietly as to not alert anyone else. Then you can drag the body away so that no other guards find him and sound an alarm.
The neat thing about this game is how well they show you visually the stealth gameplay in action. When you are in shadows, your character and enemies are in black and white. But if a light shines, you’ll be in color. Everything you do makes noise, and you can see sound waves emit for every object so you can tell if guards are close enough to hear. Guards will also have signs over their heads depending on their alert level. You can even freak out the guards so much that they’ll be jumpy and on edge! Many levels are like puzzles in that you need to know which guards and switches to take out first so that you can remain undetected.
I’m not a big stealth fan, but even I can appreciate the level of detail and quality that went into the gameplay of this title. The fluid visuals remind me of old mature cartoons I remember like Aeon Flux. If you love ninjas and stealth gameplay, you’ll really enjoy this. While the game is very challenging, you usually start out close to where you died, so it’s not annoying to have to try again. Plus there are plenty of side missions and challenges to keep you busy.
Mark of the Ninja is rated M for Mature with ESRB descriptors of Strong Language, Blood and Gore, and Intense Violence. Freaked out guards will curse over and over again, and you can kill enemies in some pretty brutal and bloody ways with your sword. Even the cutscenes have some violent moments. I might be OK with an older; more mature teen playing this, because the violence is still not too realistic due to the cartoon styled graphics. But because of all this and the high challenge level, it’s best for older gamers anyway.