IGN Review of Mini Ninjas
In the first half hour of Mini Ninjas, I never once unsheathed my sword. Instead, I spent all that time simply talking to my master and some talking crows, not to mention performing absolutely tedious and unrewarding fetch quests and running around agonizingly massive environments at a very uncomfortable pace. Yes, patience is a virtue all Ninja must possess, but the amount of patience you must have for the DS version is ridiculous. Even when you do get a chance to fight the invading samurai, it's just a bunch of button mashing with very little technique. Sorry, Magic Pockets, I've enjoyed your handheld stuff in the past but something went wrong with your DS edition of Io Interactive's property.
Oh, it has promise, but the game never reaches that promise. Mini Ninja's visual engine seems pretty solid for DS standards, but then it quickly tanks downwards with a framerate that has a hard time sticking staying on its 60 frames per second max. Protip: if you can't nail 60 FPS 100 percent of the time, lock it at 30 so we don't have to deal with the awkward herky-jerkiness of the animation trying to keep up.
The rest of the game isn't entirely disastrous, but it's pretty close. For the Nintendo DS version the designers stray completely from what Io Interactive did for the consoles and create their own experience. But for reasons completely unfathomable, the game takes a completely different direction: instead of an action focus the DS game seems to be directed in a more adventure-like experience. There's still a bit of action here, but it's a fraction of the amount that you'll experience in the console game.
So you'll be doing much more exploration in Mini Ninjas. That's fine, if it was done in a way that makes the game fun. However, this is not: environments are of uncomfortably large scale and you walk at a pace that's awkwardly slow. Even when you double tap the D-pad to run in a direction, the increased speed is only temporary and you'll have to go back to walking while your energy regains itself.
In fact, there are so many instances where the designers make you sit around and do nothing. Need to regain your spent magic? Sit on the ground and meditate for 30 seconds. There are even escort missions, believe it or not: early in the adventure you'll encounter an injured man who needs to be brought back to camp. While he's being dragged back by one character you have to attack anyone that gets in the way – but if you stray too far your buddy will simply stop in his tracks and wait for you to get close enough to continue.
And then there are the little things. Enemies spawn in walls. The map doesn't display which direction you're facing so you can quickly and easily orient yourself. The camera causes your character to run straight even when you're pressing right or left. It's extremely unforgiving in its platform jumping. And on and on. Even when the developers try something clever it comes off unpolished: there's a mode where you "sketch" puzzles in the plane of spirits, tracing forms to make them come into play. Boss battles use this mode, but the challenge is non-existent and they drag out forever. And the writing recognition's sensitivity needs to be tweaked because it'll fail more often than it'll succeed.
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