Thursday, May 6, 2010


I took an impromptu two week break from Big Mean Flash Gamer, but I'm... happy to announce I have returned. And no, I won't be ducking out of the crappy game I should have given you two weeks ago. However, I refuse to give it any more time than I already have, so let's crank this review out in record time as I take a gander at Ninjack.

Or is it NinJack? Jesus, what a pun. Rodney Dangerfield would have turned his nose up at that turd. I can only assume the title comes from the main character's name being Jack and the fact that he's a ninja, though he looks more like a Street Fighter cosplayer from where I'm sitting. The game is a traditional arcade platform affair, with our hero facing off against enemies while trying to gather gold and treasure. Pretty solid concept, but pretty lame realisation.

My problems began almost immediately with that title music. I appreciate going for the old school, retro feel, but good God, that theme is annoying! All the more reason to press the Play button, I guess. You're thrown right into the thick of it almost immediately when some flying ghost thing shoots a blue fireball at you. That's all good, no point wasting time. You have the power to fight back, of course, using the Space bar and directional keys for a variety of attacks. And herein lies our next problem: Ninjack can't fight for shit.

The controls just end up being more complicated than you'd first imagine. You have to hold down the Space bar before pressing one of the directional keys, meaning you can't move and attack. Having to stand there and hope for the best would be OK if almost all your opponents had highly effective ranged attacks. While you have to get close enough to do any damage, then stand absolutely still before striking, these assholes can hurt you from the other side of the screen.

Oh, you've got throwing stars - a whole three. After numerous embarrassing deaths I finally realised that the best strategy is to avoid confrontation whenever possible. Yes, in the arcade game that sees you play a human killing machine, the best way to survive is to run away at every opportunity.

The overall design of the game is packed with flaws. Jumping in tight corners is one of the most frustrating parts of the whole thing - if you don't leap off a ledge at exactly the right spot, you can often find yourself falling back to the platform below you. In Level 2 I came across a phantom platform. Yeah, it looked like it was there, but as soon as I tried to jump on it I sank through the son of a bitch. And to top it all off, the game loves to toss little power-ups and bonuses in places where you have no way of reaching them. A refill for my precious throwing stars sat on a ledge just out of jumping distance, mocking me. Considering neither your health nor your weapons reset between levels, you really need these bonuses.

It all looks pretty, but then people say the same thing about Tila Tequila and she's still a useless waste of organs. By the time you finally figure out the controls, you've already reached the point of not caring. But that's OK - the game's developers clearly reached that point long ago.

Case in point: the third and final level sees you wandering in circles before finally reaching the exit point. Once you've done it, the game... goes immediately back to the title sequence.

That's it? No victory screen? Not even a "You win!"? No, you managed to complete the game and nobody, not even the people who made it, gives a damn. Well, gee, thanks Ninjack. That totally doesn't want to make me toss my computer out the window in anger!

Ninjack is a shoddy, frustrating, pointless little game, its only positive being that it's mercifully short and easily forgettable.


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