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Avatar ImageGamer Limit Review: Mini Ninjas
By: | September 16th, 2009 | Xbox 360
Review |X360

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In an era where shovelware and casual action titles are developed for every system imaginable, it’s hard not to write off the plain looking Mini Ninjas based off the boxart. For all intents and purposes, it looks very similar to Brave: A Warrior’s Tale, which represented everything wrong with current 3D action titles.

Despite my initial negative stigma towards the game, I’m pleased to say that Mini Ninjas overcomes its’ stereotype, and is actually a rather enjoyable and adorable romp.

Simply put, Mini Ninjas is a level based action-adventure title that puts you into the shoes of Hiro and his friends on an epic quest to destroy the evil Samurai Warlord. Along the way, you can pick up various ingredients to use in aquired recipes, save some cute critters Sonic style, seek out hidden spells and find collectible idols.

Mixing its’ unique cartoonish graphics with beautifully painted backdrops, Mini Ninjas is able to differentiate itself from other titles, even if the visuals aren’t cream of the crop. There’s no slowdown to be seen and there’s enough unique enemy designs to go around without feeling bored.

The achilles heel of many action games can either be a bad camera, or bad controls: neither of which Mini Ninjas suffers from. Everything feels so tight and responsive, from the menu screens to combat. In fact, the only time that I had a bit of control trouble was during the game’s sparing water padding scenes.

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Speaking of the tight controls: combat is fairly robust. You can use magic, items or plain old fashioned swordplay when fighting your enemies. Through the game’s various shops or containers, you can pick up items like smoke bombs, ninja stars, caltrops and the like. As you progress through the game, you’ll save Hiro’s ninja friends, who give you access to weapons like bows, spears and claws. In addition to taking your enemies head on, it’s also possible to clear some stages without being seen at all! Using the left trigger, Hiro and his friends can sneak in tall grass, executing stealth kills at the press of a button.

But don’t worry! Enemies won’t die in a bloody mess: in classic Sonic The Hedgehog fashion, with a puff of smoke, they’ll transform into a woodland creature, which you can then possess. Although only the boars and bears have any actual utility, it’s still fun to mess around with them from time to time. The Magic system itself is pretty fun to utilize, as most of the spells are completely optional and hidden throughout the level’s nooks and crannies. You’ll get to use a whole host of different spells, from “ninja bush stealth” to lighting bolt rain.

The biggest problem Mini Ninja‘s suffers from is the fact that it’s too orientated around Hiro, despite the attempt to include “friends” for the mere fun of it. For starters, only he can use magic, which really alienates the usage of your partners right off the bat. Additionally, only Hiro can fight bosses, and really, he’s just the jack of all trades in general, meaning you don’t actually need to use your friends. Essentially the aforementioned mechanics water down your “additional characters” into weapons, which is a shame, because the movies that introduce the other ninjas is Dreamworks worthy, and contains a ton of charm.

To go along with the great visuals, surprisingly, Mini Ninjas’ soundtrack is quite good. Whether it be intense drums, or music reminisicent of various hollywood karate blockbusters, your ears will never get bored. The voice acting and sound effects are also above and beyond the call of duty. I can’t get enough of the high pitched enemy scream “Ni-ni-ni-ni-niiiiinja!!!!”, and every sword clang and arrow “woosh” is faithfully recreated.

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Mini Ninjas is a bit on the short side, as the game’s length ranges anywhere between 6-8 hours, depending on how obessed you are with hunting down collectibles and saving animals. After you’re done, you can have at the hard difficulty setting or go back to individual levels and grab everything you missed: that’s about it.

Unforunately, the only things you can unlock are some intro movies for each ninja, and while they’re very entertaining, those will only last you about 10 minutes total. In terms of the game’s difficulty, I found it comfortably adequate on normal, just don’t expect it to be super hard if you’re a hardcore action fan. There’s also an easy difficulty available for youngsters.

While Mini Ninjas is an enjoyable experience, besides the charm and solid gameplay, you won’t really find anything completely new, but it’s definately worth checking out. Coming from an action junkie (and someone who’s seen quite a few bad action games), I’d recommend it to just about anyone as a rental. Mini Ninjas is “Ninja Gaiden Jr.”, and that’s not at all a bad thing.

Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review

Rating Category
7.5 Presentation
It's a shame that the character cutscenes are underutilized, but the game's slick visuals combined with painted backdrops make for a pretty entertaining experience. Also, the enemy models are excellent!
How does our scoring system work?
7.5 Gameplay
While the controls are tight, and the gameplay is fun, Mini Ninjas doesn't really strive to do anything out of the ordinary. Also, your ninja friend's effects are marginalized due to Hiro's extreme amount of power.
8.0 Sound
You'll find a lot of the tracks are very reminiscent of classic kung-fu films (in a good way), and the enemy voice acting is to die for.
6.0 Longevity
Mini Ninjas might only be $49.99, but with a playtime of 10 hours at a maximum and no big extras, there isn't really much value here.
7.5 Overall
Mini Ninjas really took me by surprise as a serviceable "Ninja Gaiden Jr.", despite its problems and short length.

  1. avatar herbman82

    chris carter, dont you think its better to support the gaming industry rather than recommend people rent this game? 7.5 is a decent score and im sure they worked hard on it. to say its a rental is not cool at all imo

    • avatar Nadia

      That is the most omoshiroi thing i have seen all day! I am very refusctepl/fearful of bears, but not I think I may to revere them for their armed combat prowess.

  2. @herbman82

    For a lot of people this game won’t be their cup of tea, but they may still want to test the waters to see if it’s worth the $50. Not everyone is made of money.

    Also, 7.5 is indeed a decent score, but to me it doesn’t say “get out and buy this title now, it will change your life!”

    For every title that doesn’t convince me that it is a must-buy, I will always hire. And if it’s great and has plenty of replay value and/or multiplayer, then I will have no problem in forking out the cash.

  3. @herbman82
    The dilemma lies in that it’s $50 for essentially 6 hours (on average) of play. I recommended it as a rental to any action fan, but I do agree that some people would enjoy it as a purchase.

    A 7.5 in our scoring system is on the cusp of “rental for some, purchase for others”.

  4. The rental argument, yes, isn’t ideal for the industry in the same way that used games can harm sales. But you have to look at this argument from both sides, there is the developer (and obviously all that goes into that from publisher to distributer) to consider, however, there is also the consumer.

    However much I love the industry, to the point that I’m aiming to be a part of it, I think it is entirely fair to recomend a game for a rental. There are many games you play, finish in a short time and wonder “was my $60 worth it?” and fairly often, the answer is no. There needs to be some form of progress with pricing in games, you get high quality titles with decent gameplay for $15 on XBLA (i.e. Shadow Complex or Battlefield 1943) and then games for $60 that offer less quality or gameplay than such a title. I’m not insinuating that Mini Ninjas is “less quality” as I haven’t played it, merely stating that some games out there do not warrant their price tags.

    Equally, there are games at full price we have flat out said “buy this game now.” And as Chris mentioned, for some people this title would be worth buying.

  5. avatar Ashley

    I bought the game on Steam, because it’s only $29.99 there, versus the price of $60 on my console. In my opinion, that’s a much more reasonable price for such a short game. Which I did love, but I would not pay $60 for it.

  6. avatar Anonymous

    har can you buy the mini ninjas on wii

  7. avatar Gersi

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