I-Ninja PlayStation 2 Official WebsitePublished by Namco
Distributed by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Argonaut Games
Released: Out Now
When a game begins with you, as a ninja, inadvertently cutting off your sensei's head as you attempt to rescue him you know that it's a game that is going to make you laugh and that it doesn't take itself seriously. The best description you can give to anyone who wants to know what I-Ninja is like is to imagine a wacky action game that combines the excellent platforming antics of Crash Bandicoot with the crazy humour of Kung Fu Chaos. It's a game that finds itself in a genre where competition is fierce from the likes of Ratchet & Clank 2 and Jak II but nevertheless it still manages to stand out.
I-Ninja puts you in the shoes of Ninja, the big-headed, small-bodied ninja who has more bounce than a bouncy ball. As we said in the intro the game begins with Ninja trying to rescue his sensei. It goes horribly wrong as after killing the monster who was about to kill his master, Ninja then collects the rage stone that comes from it's mouth and goes crazy, which ultimately ends with him decapitating his master. It's the end of Sensei (as he's known to Ninja) though his spirit rises from his fallen body to help Ninja with his task of thwarting the evil Master O-Dor and his army of Ranx. It's not going to be easy though because they have virtually wiped out all of the Ninja clan.
The game is played out over five different areas, Robot Beach, Bomb Bay, Jungle Falls, Mountain Gorge and Moon Base. In each area there are different levels and goals to complete. Initially you'll be on Robot Beach and you'll have to rebuild the fallen Tekayama, the robot governor as well as locate the Ninja guardian Yang. In the other locations you'll have different objectives but essentially they are concerned with thwarting the plans of the evil Master O-Dor and his army. I really like the way that you always have a choice of missions to take and you're not forced into completing them in a specific order. If I had to pick fault with the missions it's that I would have liked to have seen greater variety as although they are set in different locations they still require the same basic techniques to complete although they do offer humorous variations from time to time.
To keep things interesting Ninja has a variety of abilities to help you slay those enemies. He can sword hover, grind rails, wall run, kick jump and much more. All of these special abilities are easy to perform and are explained to you when you first need to perform them. Ninja also has a few combo moves up his sleeve to make light work of those pesky Ranx enemies. He also has a rage meter that once filled will allow him to unleash a variety of special moves. Ninja Berserka, Ninja Revive (which can restore health), Ninja Shuriken and the ultimate I-Ninja (Iron Ninja) special move that temporarily makes him invincible.
Graphically I-Ninja is what you would call unique rather than technically outstanding in anyway. This actually makes a lot of sense though as it's a game which needs to be smooth and ruining the frame rate for the sake of unnecessary complex textures would be catastrophic. Ninja's rather baby like physique with his big head and little body looks comical and this is also true of a majority of the Ranx army. The game is actually full of impressive animation effects. What I was really impressed by was when you slice your opponents down the middle of the head and you see them fall apart. Don't get me wrong it's not gory and it actually looks like you've just cut a man made of rubber down the middle as the two halves appear to sway to and fro.
We've reviewed various titles in the platforming genre over the last few months and for the most part they have not been that deaf gamer friendly. Generally speaking I-Ninja is OK but it's not as deaf gamer friendly as you could wish for. The cutscenes are not subtitled, which is a shame as they are quite humorous. The conversations and tutorial messages are both shown in text so although you'll miss out on the content of the cutscenes you're not prevented from understanding what has to be done in the game or how to do it. The text was very clear and easy to read and required a button press to be removed, so you could read it at your leisure. What I really liked was how, when performing an action for the first time, not only did you have the text describing what to do but you could also press the select button for a demonstration, which was excellent.
If you like the idea of a wacky ninja style action game and were impressed by titles such as Ratchet & Clank 2 then you'll really enjoy what's on offer in I-Ninja. It's not the longest of games out there but whilst the game is quite short it's definitely very enjoyable and you'll probably want to play it again to improve your ratings. The difficulty is pitched just right so as to welcome gaming newbies but also offers enough challenge to test the hardcore gamers among you. It's a shame the cutscenes are not subtitled but it would be a shame to miss out on such a fun game simply because of that.
Game Rating: 8.0/10
One of the most enjoyable Ninja games for a good many years. What I really like about the game is that it doesn't take itself seriously and it goes out of it's way to be comical.
Great Ninja action with sweet 'n' sour support for deaf gamers. Ultimately though it's great fun.