Mark of the Ninja

mark-of-the-ninja-boxart2
9 Overall Score
Gameplay: 10/10
Art Style: 10/10
Story: 7/10

Art Style | Gameplay | Replayability

Story

Written by on September 25, 2012 in [, , ]

Mark of the Ninja is a new side scrolling stealth action game from Klei Entertainment. From potted plants to shadowy doorways, Mark of the Ninja bleeds stealth. You play as, unsurprisingly, a ninja, focused on navigating your way through circuitous levels, completing objectives and avoiding detection.

One of the most striking aspects of Mark of the Ninja is the art style – beautifully hand-drawn cel-shading fills the cutscenes and gameplay. The fact that Mark of the Ninja spend much of its time in the shadows makes its use of color much more potent. Attention to detail is present in every layer of the game – and it is seen in the art style as well. When hidden in the shadows, your character’s details are reduced to a silhouette, save the “Mark” – a tattoo drawn with special, magical ink that imbues mystical powers to your character.

Mark of the Ninja Hidden in the Rain

Stay out of the light and only your silhouette and tattoo are visible

The story is mostly told in cutscenes between missions, weaving the tale of the ink your character bears and the great sacrifice it was to receive it. In the first mission the Master of the Hisomu clan is captured and it is up to you to free him. The game continues with your work to maintain the power and honor of your clan and the infiltration of Hessian Tower, the base those captors call home.

Mark of the Ninja Cutscene

Gorgeously animated comic inspired Cutscenes

The gameplay for Mark the Ninja is precise, fluid and seamless. Special jumps, grabs, kills, and powers allow you to flit from hidden point to hidden point and the variable nature of the game allows you to be as aggressive as you wish. Killing every guard or leaving them all alone is completely within your purview, though as the game continues and you unlock more interesting kill methods, the temptation to use them can be too much to bear. Simply put, the gameplay is absolutely engaging, and very, very difficult to put down. Everything you do from avoiding detection, hiding bodies, collecting artifacts, and more net you points – and the quest for more points is a delightful one.

Despite all of the options available, the core mechanics are remarkably simple. Assassinations are as simple as one button press, followed by moving the thumbstick in the indicated direction and another button press. Secondary items are used as simply as pressing a secondary item button. Holding the left trigger down allows you to aim any missle weapon\item. Klei has kept the actual user interaction relatively basic while providing a wealth of options and opportunity.

Simple Kills in MotN (orig. src. http://www.oxmonline.com)

Assasinations are simple in Mark of the Ninja

Once unlocked, each mission is individually replayable. Each mission contained nine emblems that can be unlocked – Three for finding scrolls within the mission, three for hitting different scoring thresholds, and three for accomplishing different mission particular optional objectives. These emblems act as a type of currency used to unlock various abilities/items. These are combined into three groups – Techniques, Distraction Items, and Attack Items. What you choose to unlock will vary depending on your style of play. I found the different types of kill techniques to be the most fun.

I often found myself playing through the game, mentally tipping my hat to clever details Klei included. Everything from birds on a rooftop to jumping far distances or heights generate sound – reflected as a circular wave emanating from the source. These sounds could give away your location, or at the very least, distract the guards (which, it turns out, becomes a useful tool to the ninja). Players are able to hide bodies to avoid causing any alarm, but killing enemies mysteriously in front of others, or leaving bodies to be found can rattle the other guards, which also can prove to be a valuable distraction tool.

MotN Lights and Guards

Even the Guards make noise – But they’re not watching for each other.

In my first session, I spent four hours playing the first two levels over and over, trying to get all of the emblems. The game is just a ton of fun to play, and the variety afforded to us by Klei Entertainment is fantastic. The game also includes leaderboards for those trying to get the highest point totals amongst their friends (or in the world).

Truthfully the story is a bit contrived but its purpose is not to wow us, but merely to serve as the wrapper for the gameplay.

Klei has struck an incredible balance between stealth and violence, art and gameplay, and options and simplicity. With so many options to use an experience, I will be returning to Mark of the Ninja for a long time.

A copy of Mark of the Ninja was provided to The Married Gamers for review.

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Author: Andrew Smith View all posts by

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