by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Many enemies will meet their demise throughout the course of the game, and thankfully the combat is never boring. When you are in range for a stealth kill, there is a small quick time event where you have to press a direction and the attack button. Pulling one of these off is always satisfying, but if you fail, the kill will not be clean, and the guard will struggle and call out for help as you put him down. When something makes a noise in Mark of the Ninja, the distance the sound travels is shown on the screen, so it is always tense when you make a sound and you are hoping no one was around to hear it. If you do get spotted, it is often hard to escape as the guards all have guns. If you do manage to get out of sight though, it is quite forgiving as the guards will go back to their regular patrol patterns after a short time.
Combat and Platforming
The main game is split among these stealthy combat sections where you must avoid guards, and platforming sections where you have to be quick to get by. For example, enemies will often use laser beams to guard special items or people. Walking through a laser triggers a sentry gun which fires at the intruder, so you will have to sneak through air vents to find the power source and switch it off. Other sections see you leaping across platforms with the ever present danger of spikes below, making sure not to linger too long on loose perches. Equally dangerous are the places where guards pump poisonous gas underground, which forces you to be very quick when moving through these areas, or just avoid them completely. These mechanics are taken to a whole new level in the challenge rooms. They can be found hidden in each level, and if completed will grant you extra points. Gaining extra points means you will be able to upgrade your existing items or abilities, so it is often worth your while.
Points are earned for most actions in the game. Performing kills and sneaking past guards are the main source, but you are also given optional objectives within each level, such as getting past an area without using any items. These grant bonuses which boost your overall score at the end of the level. Completionists will find themselves wanting to restart the level if they miss an objective, or lose points somewhere, as there are achievements for getting the highest score possible in each level. The levels themselves are fairly short, and the entire game took around eight hours for me to complete. When it is complete, you unlock the new game plus mode, where enemies are tougher, and sounds are no longer visible, making it all the more harder to be successful.
Mark of the Ninja is addictive and a whole lot of fun. It controls so well and intuitively that I found I barely had to think about what my fingers were doing once I had gotten into it. I was just happy to watch the action on screen unfold. The story was not completely compelling the whole way through, though I found the ending to be very powerful. The price is that of a smaller downloadable game, but I would have had no trouble paying full retail price for it. This is one of those games that comes round every now and then which defies expectations and blows you away. It certainly should not be left in the shadows.
Addictive gameplay. Gorgeous art style.
Story is lacking in some places.