Published on September 19th, 2012 | by Gabriel0
Review: Mark of the Ninja
Summary: Gabriel takes a look at Mark of the Ninja on Xbox 360
Throughout the years, many games have provided us with stealth gameplay, be it that it is a central component of the game or a single section. More times than not, however, these stealth sections prove to be cumbersome and annoying, providing players with a frustrating experience instead of a rewarding one. That is, until now. Mark of the Ninja sets out to provide an exciting stealth game in its purest form, and thanks to its amazing execution and smart art design, it succeeds.
Many components come together to make what is one of the greatest stealth games available, but it’s Mark of the Ninja‘s visual style coupled with the many smart design choices that elevate this game above many recent and not so recent stealth titles. The first thing you’ll notice is that this is a 2D game, something not really seen in stealth games, but it is exactly this decision that serves to create mechanics that accentuate the stealth component of the game, and making it fun and challenging without becoming frustrating as many stealth titles are. The biggest problem present in stealth games is knowing if your opponents can or can’t see you and hear you. Mark of the Ninja circumvents these problems thanks to it’s intelligent visual design. If your ninja is hidden to the naked eye, he will change into a silhouette, which indicates you’re hidden, and you’ll look normal if you’re in light. Also, everything in the game shows a noise radius. Meaning, every time you deploy an item, every time you run, every noise you make has a circle around it denoting how far the noise will reach, letting you plan ahead so that you aren’t surprised by guards mysteriously hearing you. If they do, it’s because you did something wrong.Combine this with your ninja repertoire (climbing, hanging, stealth kills etc.) and you’ve got an engaging stealth title that always gives you the tools to play as stealthily as you want. When you start the game, you have the most basic ninja moves. You’re able to grapple form point A to B, perform stealth kills, hang to walls and hide behind pots and in grates. But as you play and achieve the many main objectives and optional objectives in the many stages, you will acquire medals that allow you to purchase upgrades such as new distraction items, new stealth kills, deadlier attack weapons and so on and so forth. The more upgrades you get, the more options at your disposal. You’ll be able to distract your enemies with caltrops or smoke bombs, or upgrade the smoke to poison them. You can terrorize the guards by throwing the dead bodies of their partners to them or hanging them up on a spotlight. There are many options at your disposal, including beating the game going full-stealth, with no kills.
Add to this an ingenious scoring system, that scores you for almost every action you make. You’ll get point for seeking by undetected, for performing stealth kills, for hiding bodies, for terrorizing guards, for finding scrolls (these give you a bit of backstory and are all written as haikus) and artifacts and many other actions.Performing the secondary objectives provides points and medals, and also opens different costumes that allow you to play in very different ways. One might make you a killing machine but at the same time take away your distraction items, while another might favor stealth and take away your sword. This many different approaches complement the New Game + that is unlocked once you beat the game. Here, the enemies are tougher, but you can carry over the aforementioned costumes and your complete arsenal. These make the 7-8 hour campaign very replayable, since the story alone doesn’t really warrant a replay. It’s not bad, it’s just pretty standard. It does enough to keep your attention the whole way through, but not more than that.
If anything can be leveled against Mark of the Ninja, it’s that the gorgeous animation isn’t milked for all it’s worth. Animations will repeat constantly, especially if you perform many stealth kills. Also, the story isn’t anything to write home about. But other than that, this is one of the best stealth games available, and you really shouldn’t miss out on it. This is how stealth should be done, challenging yet fair, giving you all the tools necessary for success. Go check it out on XBLA now, you won’t regret it.