Mark of the Ninja (PC) Review

By Brian Short 01.09.2014

Review for Mark of the Ninja on PC

Visually reminiscent of Klei Entertainment's previous games, Shank and Shank 2, Mark of the Ninja is its attempt at bringing ninjas back to their roots as stealthy assassins. These ninjas find their clan threatened by an ever more modern and dangerous world. Will the clan survive, or will it be lost in time? Announced originally for the Xbox 360, the game has since been made available on PC, as well as Linux and OS X.

Assuming the role of an unnamed ninja, players are given the mark of the ninja, a tattoo that imbues the ninja with enhanced abilities, but at the cost of their gradual descent into madness. Time is running short for the ninja and he must restore honour to his clan by launching an attack on their modern enemies, the Hessian corporation, before committing seppuku to end the madness of the tattoo. How that attack plays out is entirely up to the player.

Levels can be winding and sprawling both vertically and horizontally. Maneuvering can be handled by grappling to new heights, crawling through vents to enter locked rooms, or climbing silently up walls. The danger is found in the way the game restricts the line of sight, a mechanic not often seen in the 2D platforming genre where status quo says anything and everything on the screen is visible. In Mark of the Ninja, vision is limited to what the ninja can see. If a door is shut, the room on the other side is blurred out. Power-ups found later in the game can help extend the line of vision, but at the outset, the ninja is only fully aware of what is in his current room.

While vision is limited, other senses are still left fully intact. Hearing is the greatest asset, allowing the player to tell where enemies are walking or stationed based on their radio chatter and the sound their steps make. These sounds are detectable not only through the audio, but also by small circles of light showing both the sounds the player makes as well as enemies. The mechanic works wonderfully and fairly; it can be so subtle that a careless player might just find themselves staring down the barrel of a gun without realizing a guard had been waiting in the shadows all along.

Screenshot for Mark of the Ninja on PC

Sneaking up on enemies and killing them at the exact right moment is a rewarding experience, especially in later levels where the complexity of the guard layout makes stealth kills near impossible. On a basic level, guards do a fairly good job. They will listen for footsteps and investigate any suspicious activity, with some guards even shooting off flares to light up the entire area in order to ensure there are no hiding spots left for a ninja. Other guards are quite brutish and do not go down easily; usually some aspect of the environment is needed to assist in taking them down. Unfortunately, all guards have the same issue: they cannot climb ledges. If a stealth kill is botched and guards are alerted, it is all too easy to climb a small ledge and wait for them to drop their guard again. Guards will pursue their assailant up and down flights of stairs but refuse to climb up a simple ledge. It is a little disappointing and one of the few, possibly only, chinks in the AI's armour. There is still nothing like the thrill of plotting out a path and strategy to take down a guard and then seeing it all fall into place perfectly.

While eliminating enemies is satisfying, the game also rewards a pacifist approach. At the end of each level, a score is tallied based on objectives completed in each level. A reward is given for each enemy eliminated, with extra points for stealth kills, but an even bigger score is given for making it through the entire level without killing a single guard. The scoring at the end of each level is mainly for personal use as an extra way to add replay value by trying to beat old high scores. Scoring can be completely ignored, allowing players to approach each level as they see fit.

Within different levels are challenge rooms that really push the player and the game's mechanics to the limits. These challenge rooms act more as puzzles than the rest of the level, usually focusing more on flipping switches and disabling lasers rather than eliminating guards. The usual reward is a scroll that will flesh out more of the story, sometimes giving insight to aspects of the storyline not made clear to the player.

Screenshot for Mark of the Ninja on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Mark of the Ninja is at its absolute best during the missions with wide open level design. The game lends itself to so many play styles that pure stealth or assassinating everyone in sight works equally well in most situations. This openness allows players to craft their own experience and become the ninja they want to be. Unfortunately, the controls don't always keep up with the ninja. On a couple of occasions, a silent kill failed even though the ninja had landed directly behind an enemy undetected because the game had not loaded the silent kill button prompt. Luckily, this issue is inconsistent and it is easy to adjust to the delayed prompt. The rest of the game shines; all of the gameplay mechanics blend together so well that it is possible to accomplish almost any task the game can come up with. Being a stealthy ninja can be tough, but Mark of the Ninja makes it fun.

Developer

Klei

Publisher

Microsoft Game

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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