Ninjamurai Review

By Shawn Collier on August 17, 2011

Open Emotion Studio's most recent PSP minis title, Mad Blocker Alpha, was a somewhat flawed yet incredibly rewarding title once players got to grips with the game's constraints. Not wanting to repeat the same idea over again, Open Emotion Studios has decided to go with a different genre for their latest minis entry by combining two well-known staples: platforming and ninjas. Long-time fans of the iconic genre will remember titles such as Capcom's legendary Strider franchise. So how does the developer's entry, Ninjamurai, fare? Sadly, not so well.

Unlike Mad Blocker Alpha, Ninjamurai puts much more emphasis on the overall storyline by linking together various cutscenes upon completing each stage. You control Takezou Nishimura, a warrior who is known in the game's world as a "Ninjamurai" --- a mixture of a male samurai and a female kunoichi, who keeps to himself due to being looked down upon by both groups for being a half-breed of sorts. After going to a nearby town for a recon mission, he discovers that the local Black Armor militia has overrun the town and that the group's commander was responsible for murdering his parents. And as expected, he sets out on a journey to avenge their deaths.

As anyone who has played platformers can attest to, having tight controls is a paramount necessity. Unfortunately for Ninjamurai this can't be farther from the truth. The player can switch between two different styles at will: movement and attacking. The former allows for double jumping and faster movement while the latter allows for executing special techniques such as driving a sword down from above into a foe and attacking from a longer distance with your sword. The sad fact is that neither style works that well because the former makes the character move too fast and bump into enemies and enemy projectiles while the latter has issues due to the wonky hit detection which almost always will have the player accidentally touch the enemy's wide hit box as they're trying to deal a blow. This is further hampered by the fact that the character movement feels floaty because the on-screen character doesn't stop moving for a few milliseconds after the motion is executed and is further compounded by the fact that many of the platforms are too small and require incredible finesse to land on properly.

Ninjamurai does feature checkpoints in many of the levels but said checkpoints usually only appear once in the level and with only a few extra lives each time you continue. It really comes down to learning through repetition and essentially renders the checkpoints moot because you likely won't need them after dying in the level multiple times over. Some levels, such as one midway through the game where you are running for your life away from a dragon doesn't feature them and is littered with numerous death traps such as tiny disappearing platforms or wide platforms littered with spikes and other hazards. It's clear that Ninjamurai was a game made specifically for fast-paced "run towards the goal" gameplay but with numerous enemies and hazards blocking your path, the game can't seem to decide which style it prefers.

Even though Ninjamurai is plagued by its gameplay, its music is exceptionally well-done for a PSP minis title. While Mad Blocker Alpha's music was good for the most part, some tracks remained too repetitive and the music sounded somewhat tinny at times. Ninjamurai fixes both of those issues and while none of the tunes are memorable ,they don't gnaw on your ears as you struggle through the gameplay.

There is quite a bit of extra content available in the game which does extend the life of the game. Time Attack versions of the stages are unlocked as you progress through the game and extra costumes can be unlocked after completing the game once which change up your abilities. For only being $2 there is something to be said about the amount of extra content the game has after the first playthrough.

Final Thoughts

Ninjamurai is a very conflicted game that can't decide if it wants to be a straight-up platformer or a run-and-gun title due to its sometimes unwieldy floaty controls and obtuse platform placement and it causes the controls to never quite feel natural to the player and only serves to frustrate them as they get farther into the game. If you can acknowledge that and learn by repetition it's a decent game at its cheap price of $2 --- but for most players Ninjamurai will simply just frustrate them to no end.

Music is surprisingly good for a minis title.
Stages aren't too long so they're good for quick play spurts.
Only $2, much less than other PSP minis titles.
Controls feel very floaty.
Certain sections of the game feel extremely unbalanced and unfair.
Game can't seem to find its direction in how the best way is to complete a stage.
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