"A Mark of Brilliance"
Mark of the Ninja is a side scroller with a refreshing gameplay style. Players take on the role of a Ninja as he saves his clan from an evil corporation. However, if you are looking for an updated Shinobi-like game, look elsewhere. Mark of the Ninja makes the player focus on stealth as they avoid and take out enemies without being seen.
The game starts with the player's ninja, awaking to find his clan's home ravaged by an evil corporation. As one of the few ninjas who haven't been seen by the corporation, the ninja takes a stand and throughout the game vows to take down the corporation through use of mysterious ability-granting tattoos that have protected his clan for centuries. Along the way, he is guided by a female ninja who gives him tasks to do and helps forward the story along in animated cutscenes.
Mark of the Ninja's gameplay is very interesting, as player's go through the levels, they must avoid detection by enemies due to the ninja’s low health. Aiding them, the ninja has quite a few options available to him in his travels, such as killing enemies in a certain manner to avoid creating noise, destroying environmental objects to distract or kill enemies, and hiding in the environment. The player also has the ability to freeze the action and execute a series of abilities once time has been unfrozen; you can do things such as laying a trap, a noise cracker to attract enemies to it, and grappling to a ledge simultaneously. The ways of avoiding detection start out pretty simple, but as the game goes on and more skills are introduced, they combine to become more complex.
With Mark of the Ninja taking a different approach to side-scrolling action, initially it's strange to not be able to kill an enemy when facing them head on, but eventually stealth becomes second nature. This isn't stealth in the same vein as the first few Splinter Cell titles, which plays to the game favor, because the gameplay is accessible to everyone and accommodates a few play styles. While your character does have low health, getting hit or detected doesn’t warrant a game over, and the layout of levels provide a few ways to escape most hostile situations alive.
Those who would like to simply complete levels can do so, while those who would like to accomplish a pacifist playthrough with no detection are welcome to as well. Aside from the tools and moves picked up throughout the levels, level completion in Mark of the Ninja earns players medals that can be used to purchase new moves and tools, giving players a reason to play levels over and over. Through these upgrades, the gameplay can completely change, with the ninja becoming better at non-stealthy hand-to-hand combat, for instance.
Mark of the Ninja looks great in motion. With a graphic style that looks similar to Samurai Jack, the cutscenes wouldn’t be out of place on the Cartoon Network (although blood would place it on Adult Swim). The use of shadow and light with the other visual cues the game gives while playing is a sight to see and adds to the tense nature of the stealth gameplay. While many of the levels are set inside buildings, each one has its own distinct feeling, and the use of shadows in the game is great.
Coming out at the tail end of summer between the Summer of Arcade and the fall season onslaught of AAA retail titles, Mark of the Ninja stands out on its own and comes highly recommended. To attest to the game's accessibility, a non-gaming friend watching me play asked if she could try it out, overcoming the intricacies of the Xbox 360 controller to complete the training level. The game is highly accessible to all kinds of gamers and is, simply put, something different from the other games coming out nowadays.
GameDynamo's Score for Mark of the Ninja (X360)
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