Friday, February 12, 2010

Advanced Ninja

You've no doubt noticed the rather sporadic updates over the last few weeks, as well as the numerous missed deadlines, and I'd like to apologise for that. My timekeeping has been haphazard at best recently, but that's no excuse not to get a review up every Wednesday, as I have done almost every week since October 2007.

The truth is I'm probably feeling some serious burnout right now. Plus, you can only play so many awful games before you just never want to look at one ever again. So how do I tackle this issue? I suppose the answer is pretty obvious - balance out the garbage with games I actually enjoy playing. That's why, from now on, Big Mean Flash Gamer will look at the best as well as the worst, alternating between good and bad every week. Next week I'll review a game I like. This week? Oh, this week, you better believe I'm bringing you some crap.

Advanced Ninja is a platform game in which you control a stick figure ninja through some weird pseudo-futuristic underground labyrinth, using a grappling hook to overcome obstacles as well as your natural ninja skills. Sounds decent, right? Well, yeah, it does. But in practice it's about as enjoyable as dental surgery without anaesthetic.

Actually, I take that back. At least with the dental surgery you'll eventually black out.

The game looks... OK. I've seen worse looking titles, and at least the character gives the appearance of a ninja. But let's be honest here - if you had the choice between playing this simplistic platformer or something that looks and plays brilliantly like Nitrome's Final Ninja, which would you prefer?

Actually, if I remember correctly, the hero of Final Ninja also uses a grappling hook occasionally, except when you use his the controls don't seem broken as hell. For a game that essentially uses five buttons (W, A, S, D and the left mouse button) it doesn't say much that only three of them work all the time - and no, the jump button isn't one of them.

I lost count of the number of times I'd fall fifty feet to the floor (or even better, into a vat of acid) because my character suddenly lost the ability to jump or grab hold of a ledge. What you find yourself doing, then, is applying the grappling hook to each and every situation. You use it to jump over walls, to navigate platforms and - my favourite - to climb up slopes, because either the entire ground is layered with oil or your ninja lacks the ability to walk uphill.

And could someone tell me what the hell is going on here?

How did he end up in an asteroid field? This level just appears between two underground zones without rhyme or reason. And it's frustrating as all hell because, naturally, you can't just jump from one rock to the next. No, you have to grapple your way across the screen to the door - then grapple your way back because the door is locked and you have to find a button to unlock it. Not that I mind doing stuff like that; I just don't appreciate getting thrown into a random situation without any understanding of what the hell I'm supposed to do.

But the worst moment, above all the others, was this point with three collapsing platforms. Collapsing platforms, you think, what's the big deal? You just jump from one to the next and you get where you need to go. Oh, sure, that's what you'd do in any other game. But in Advanced Ninja the platforms fall if you so much as set a foot on them. And this is where the broken jump button really comes along to screw you over, because it's almost impossible to jump off fast enough. I was starting wonder why a game this amateurish was called Advanced Ninja, and then I realised it's because you need the reflexes of an actual ninja to win.

You have to have the patience and poise to overcome the God awful control system and deal with the jerky, unappealing graphics to achieve victory. It's a game designed to separate the true ninja from guys who just like dressing in black. Which is fine, if you really want to know your ninja level. Me? I wanted to play a good game. My advice is to grab your grappling hook and swing away as quickly as possible.

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