Say the word ‘Ninja’ to most people and the last thing that would pop into their mind is a cute cartoon character, armed with a sword suited to the stature of the miniature hero. But that’s exactly what creators of Mini Ninjas for the Xbox 360, IO Interactive, have come up with in their new child-friendly game.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that cartoon characters automatically mean less-than-brilliant graphics. Quite the opposite is true, with the 3D characters themselves wandering around in a quite stunning and atmospheric setting, reminiscent of Japan itself where the action is set.
The third person action adventure game will drop you into the swing of things as you assume the role of Hiro, a suitably small and unassuming hero for the tale. Hiro’s mission is to be reunited with his 5, equally cute, ninja buddies. As these additional characters join your party you’ll be able to switch between them, granting access to a range of different skills, abilities and weapons.
Together with your party of pint-sized champions you will explore a world, bent on stopping the typically evil Samurai Warlord in his campaign to turn animals into warriors. Mini Ninjas really is kid-safe; despite being armed with swords and other weapons, the miniature characters will never shed a drop of blood. Defeated enemies will usually return to their original form, an excessively cute and grateful furry friend.
Although the levels with which you will be faced are linear there are plenty of areas to explore and things to do. Collecting ingredients growing around the world will allow for the creation of potions, and Hiro’s Kuji magic will even provide the opportunity to possess nearby wildlife, allowing you to sneak subtly past enemy minions with ease.
The scenery provides plenty of options for different ways to work your way through the game. The necessity of fighting every enemy that darkens the path before you is removed through the ability to sneak through tall grass, or to climb to the rooftops of those buildings around the place. Unfortunately these options are never really enforced, meaning that the majority of players of the game will simply run forward to vanquish their foes with brute force, instead of taking advantage of the widely explore-able scenery and modes of gameplay.
To be sure that Mini Ninjas was suited to an audience of a younger age they have made the game excessively easy. Even on the highest difficulty setting and in the hardest levels it won’t feel particularly challenging. This is a disappointing trait in what could have been a game that would appeal to a larger range of audiences, and could even stop younger children from enjoying it to completion due to a lack of a challenge or any complicated features.
Unfortunately for IO Interactive, what could have been a truly great game has been limited through their over-cautious desire to create an easy title for children. With a potential for greatness, the feeling as you progress through the levels in typical button-mashing fashion is that it just misses the mark. Having said that, the beautiful scenery and a rich and vibrant world to explore is still likely to hold the attention of avid players for some time, just don’t expect too much of a challenge.