stabbers_mcgee's Ninjatown (Nintendo DS) review

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Ninjatown: Complexity and Cuteness

Overview

Ninjatown is a tower defense games made by Southpeak games in conjunction with Shawnimals LLC., a character design studio. Ninjatown looks like a typical tower defense game on its surface, but its unique charm and surpirsingly deep gameplay make it a must have game for lovers of the genre or anyone looking for a great pick-up-and-play game.

Story

Ninjatown is populated by ridiculously cute creatures called Wee Ninjas. One day, Mr. Demon and his army of Wee Devils decide to attack Ninjatown in order to steal the recipe for Ninja Star Cookies. You take on the role of Ol' Master Ninja to lead the Wee Ninjas in defending their town and the cookie recipe. The story plays out in cut scenes and very cleverly written dialogue as you chase down Mr. Demon through nine different areas.

Gameplay

In case you have not been on the internet for the past few years, I will explain what a tower defense game is. In a typical tower defense game, you build structures to defend a path from some sort of invading force. The invaders will enter one end of the path and try to exit the other side. Failing to prevent the invaders from reaching the end results in a lose of life. Killing the invaders earns you currency (in this case, Ninja Star Cookies)which can be used to buy new or upgrade existing structures. Ninjatown does not stray far from this path, but it adds many different mechancics that make the strategizing far deeper than most tower defense games you will find for free online.

First off, rather than building towers, you must construct Wee Ninja huts. Each hut  produces two Wee Ninjas that will autonomously fight off invaders within a certain radius (save for the Mountain Ninja hut which only produces one). You have very little direct control over the ninjas fight. For ground based ninjas, you can set a rally point so that they stand in a certain area. As for ranged ninjas, you can set them to attack either the closest, the weakest, or the strongest enemies in their radius. Each hut can be upgraded four times, and each upgrade increases the ninja's strength and attack radius. There are eight different huts that run the gamut from strong and slow to fast and weak. Some have area of effect attacks while others slow enemies down.

In addition to the Wee Ninja huts, you can also build six different modifier buildings. Each one has a different effect on the ninja huts it touches. One will increase the the ninjas' attack while another will increase the attack radius. These can be used as a more cost effective way of increasing the power of several ninja huts if money (or cookies) is tight.

Ninjatown is not content to leaving the gameplay and mere hut building. Throughout the game, you will learn new Ol' Master Ninja powers. These powers use energy that is earned by killing enemies. There are seven powers in all, but I found myself using only the "Get Off My Lawn!," where you blow into the DS's mic to push the enemies back down the path, and the "Magnifryer Glass," which shoots a concentrated beam of energy down onto the enemies and is directed by the stylus.

Finally, there are four different tokens that can be used. You earn a token at the end of each level which can then be used in later levels. One token is a Baby Ninja that will slows down enemies within it's radius. The tokens only last a few seconds but can save your life if you get in a tight spot.

There are twelve different enemies and several bosses that each require different strategies to defeat. Trying to stick with one method thoughout the game will get you nowhere fast. Different mechanics, like giving you control of cannons or having to deal with globs of dark syrup falling from the sky and destroying your huts, add even more variety to the 36 unique levels.

Graphics

The animation and design of Ninjatown is quite superb. It is catoony in nature, but not in a way that only children can enjoy. The style really helps Ninjatown stand out amongst other DS titles that are cartoony. There is almost a dicotomy between the children's story stlye animation and the very clever dialogue, but they actually compliment each other quite well.

Sound

Unfortunately, I played this game while working backstage in a theatre so I had the volume down most of the time. The music I heard during the times I did have the volume up, though,  was pretty decent. Not great, but not bad. It could get kind of repetitive when playing the longer levels.

Summary

Each level takes between five and fifteen minutes making it perfect for bus rides or lunch breaks. The letter grades you receive on each level provide a reason to go back and replay levels over with a different strategy. Ninjatown really stands out amongst the plethora of tower defense games on the market right now. It's variety of levels, buildings, enemies, and special abilities coupled with the cute and funny story make it a truly must own DS game.
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