I don’t care who you are – everyone has dreamed of being a ninja. The idea of embodying a skilled up assassin flipping out and serving up various forms of creeping death has always been ripe ground for computer game based power trips.
Mark of the Ninja sees players take control of an unnamed champion in a 2D side scrolling stealth adventure with a heavy emphasis on manipulating enemy AI.
Klei Entertainment’s signature cartoon style from its Shank slash’em up games runs through here which is beautifully realised within the world’s art.
Shadow and light play a huge part of how players approach the gameplay but it’s also a big influence in the way Mark of the Ninja is presented with silhouette roof tops and a variety of Japanese style interiors bathed in golden light.
Each level of the game starts with the basic premise of making it to the other side of the map, but the choice is yours in how you approach it. You’re actually awarded with more experience points for making it through the level unseen and without killing any guards. There’s a certain sense of achievement by approaching things that way, but it’s also a lot of fun picking off clueless guards one by one.
Mark of the Ninja succeeds so brilliantly in making you feel like an elemental predator that’s completely in control of their surroundings. If you enjoy the Predator Maps from Rocksteady’s Arkham Batman games, this game is definitely for you.
Movement feels fluid and predictable. Even simple movements like the way you instinctively stick to walls or peak through vents like a spider nails the feel of how you imagine being able to move as a black pajama badass.
The game is great in giving you feedback for your actions, so it’s always your fault if things go wrong. The tool wheel allows you to pause the game and plan out your approach.
Klei have managed to make vision cones and sound radius zones work in an intuitive way, taking influences from games like Splinter Cell and Metal Gear in how the AI reacts, but making it possible to escape if things go wrong.
There’s a puzzle element to how each level plays out, whether that be toying with enemies to move them into the right positions for you to move forward or negotiating security laser grids to gain entry to the next room.
Your ninja can be upgraded with new tools and suits which reward different play styles and there are some pretty difficult challenge maps scattered throughout the game too for some added value.
Due to the variety of ways it’s possible to tackle each mission Mark of the Ninja stands up to repeat playthroughs and there is a New Game + feature so you can keep all your gear when you do.
There are small niggles like trying to hide a body and hiding behind cover using the same button which creates a peculiar Ninja do-si-do. Players also might get frustrated that a head on approach often ends in death by a hail of bullets. But if that’s a problem for you, why are you playing a stealth game? Well worth 1,200 Microsoft points and at least the free download trial.