Fear is a Weapon. It’s one thing take out a guard from below a steel grate without any of his fellow guards noticing, it’s another to then hang the dead body from a grappling point, striking fear and panic into the hearts of the other guards. Mark of the Ninja is a stealth 2D platformer from Canadian developers, Klei Entertainment, a developer that’s really starting to grow on me. This will be the second one of their games I’ve looked at after Don’t Starve.
You start off in the traditional ninja dojo of the Hisomu clan, located in the mountains of Japan as it’s being attacked by mercenaries who are armed to the teeth. And ‘armed to the teeth’ includes sniper rifles, machine guns, flares, night vision, body armor, grenades, lasers, etc. Mark of the Ninja is set in modern times, and it would seem the Hisomu Ninja Clan is more old-fashioned than the Amish. Their only advantage is a full-body tattoo using ink drawn from a special desert flower. This tattoo is called the Mark of the Ninja and it grants the wearer faster reflexes and sharper senses. But eventually, the ink poisons your mind, driving the wearer insane and kill-crazy. You are given this tattoo in order to avenge your clan and kill the man who sent the mercenaries. When your mission is complete, you’re required to perform seppuku (ritual disembowelment) to stop yourself from becoming an incredibly dangerous, unstoppable, murderous mad man.
As I’ve mentioned, Mark of the Ninja is a stealth platformer where a lot of effort has been put into the stealth mechanic. Line of sight is incredibly important as it determines not only if your enemies can see you, but if you can see your enemies. Sometimes it’s better to take out the lights before moving into an area, using the darkness to your advantage. Running, throwing kunnai, using your grappling hook, disturbing birds, mucking up a silent kill all cause noise that can alert your enemies to your presence. You can use your chain grappling hook to latch on and move between certain points, crawl up walls, hang from ceilings and move through vents and sewers. As you play more levels, find scrolls, artifacts and meet certain requirements, you can upgrade your stealth, mobility and attacking skills, gain distraction items and attack items. Though I found that I always stuck to smoke bombs and spike traps since they were unequivocally the best items for my play style, which just happened to be kill everyone without raising the alarm before moving on. This wasn’t always that easy as sometimes all it took was for a guard to look the wrong way at the wrong time. But luckily Mark of the Ninja has an amazingly well-timed auto-save feature for when you get caught.
And getting caught isn’t worth it in the same way getting shot isn’t really worth it. You take a penalty to your score, guards shoot at you (turns out your wispy, cloth clothing isn’t very bulletproof), a temporary alarm is raised and the shit basically hits the fan. That’s not to say the game is forfeit. If it’s only one guard, you can sometimes beat the snot out of him until he falls (a lengthy process), or you can run and hide, as long as your faster than bullets.
The entire art style is the same as Shank which is somewhat reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoon, similar to The Last Airbender series. While I can definitely recommend this game to anyone who has an interest in stealth or platforming gameplay, it does get a little repetitive at times, especially if you’r a perfectionist, despite only being about 10 hours long.
Finally, I will say something about games with arbitrary choice systems. Games that provide story choices which don’t actually affect anything. Like when you got the end of Mass Effect 3 or Deus Ex: Human Revolution and all the choices you made up until then didn’t mean squat. Mark of the Ninja provides one choice at the very end of the game which only affect the last 10 seconds of animation. This choice is still not arbitrary as it completely ties in with the rest of the game and is an important choice as far as story goes. While it might not be the story you get to directly experience, it’s a story you know exists. When you get to the end of this game and have to make the choice, make it quickly and go with your gut feeling.
Next review in 3 weeks will be Transistor.Cover Image