Only serious video gamers will remember Square Enix’s fun little hack and slash game, Mini Ninjas, which came out on PC, Mac and all the major consoles in 2009. Far from being one of Square Enix’s Triple A titles (they publish Call of Duty, Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider, for example), it was more a cutesy, almost B-studio budget game that was long and fun – a ninja-ish version of Mario if you will, family friendly and safe.
But whereas that was a full 3D environment, Square-Enix have opted to turn the iOS version into a 2D ‘endless runner’ (like Jetpack Joyride, Tiny Wings or Rayman Run). Disappointing on one level, as I think the old version could’ve worked quite well (especially on an iPad) and the Apple App Store is flooded with these kinds of games. Mini Ninjas core focus remains the same, survive running for as long as possible, without hitting rocks, spikes, enemies or other obstacles. Use the coins and other items you pick up in the ‘dojo’ to upgrade your character’s abilities.
You start as ninja Hiro, who can run, jump, slash and wall run quite happily, but if you free your buddy ninjas, they will help you with skills such as gliding, or smashing rocks with giant mallets – to name a few (and each ninja you rescue effectively gives you an extra life). Part of the appeal of the game (especially since half the time it is hard to tell what the hell is going on in the chaos) is the appeal of the little ninjas themselves – their individual characteristics and costumes are charming. This might be why Square Enix has announced that the game will now also be made into a TV show – which I assume this title ties in to.
Ironically, it may well be those that have never heard of Mini Ninjas that enjoy this game the most – fans may have been expecting more (or at least something close to the original). Mini Ninjas, for all its charm, doesn’t bring much new to the table. Its graphics engine again, while cute, is quite severely dated – while sharp on an iPad Retina Display, the low res textures and low polygon counts definitely didn’t make it look contemporary.
Overall, Mini Ninjas is good for a few minutes of fun, but it probably won’t be sitting on your device in a few months time.