Mini Ninjas PS3 Review

Hitman and Kane & Lynch are two games that are aimed at mature audiences, thus it came as quite a shock to learn that developer, IO Interactive, were releasing a cute and cuddly game. Mini Ninjas is that game, and unsurprisingly those eponymous ninjas aren‘t the murderous kind that spill gallons on top of gallons of blood.

Indeed, Mini Ninjas is no Tenchu or Ninja Gaiden: you aren’t going to be slitting throats, perforating bodies with your sharp weapons and causing a bloody mess, IO’s ninjas are very much aimed at kids, although for older players that have a big kid inside of them, Mini Ninjas is also sure to delight.

Visually, the game is up there with some of the cutest I’ve ever seen. The animations of both the central ninjas and the enemy samurai are wonderfully charismatic, and to see a patrol of enemies marching past is a funny sight that may lighten up many peoples day. The art style is beautifully appealing and very cartoon-like, with lovely Eastern inspired environments to jump and wander around. The animals, that are trapped in cages and that are released from enemies upon defeating them, are also delightful, so much so that upon seeing them imprisoned in said cages I felt extremely sorry for them, and always had the strong urge to break them out. The defeat of enemies should meanwhile be seen as releasing those animals as opposed to the dirty deed of killing them off.

The game can be quite easily played using the authentic sneaking of a ninja, though you can also meet the samurai head-on. None of these elements will pose a great deal of trouble for its young target audience, though it’s the combat that is the real breeze to get through.

Indeed, the combat is simple and shallow and most enemies can be dealt with by bashing the attack button (yes, on the hardest difficulty, as well), even if there are various other options to do away with them, such as power attacks and magic. There isn’t a great variety of enemies either, and it’s a rare occasion when you’ll be facing off against something a little bit different. Even the bosses are very easy to defeat once you have learned what their weaknesses are, and when pinpointed it’s mostly a case of using QTE’s to cause their health bars to shrink towards nothingness.

The cartoon ninja leads (headlined by Hiro, the game begins with two ninjas and is later expanded to a total of six) have enough uniqueness from one another to set them apart. Hiro, the pint sized masked ninja, can use various magical abilities and brandishes a sword, Futo is huge in size (obviously not much of a Mini Ninja) and carries a fittingly big wooden hammer, Shun uses a bow and arrow which is helpful for taking out those distant targets, and so on.

Whichever ninja you’re currently playing as, stealth is also an option: crouching in grass, hiding on rooftops and under bushes. Not only do you get all the latter as discreet options, but it’s also possible to use Hiro’s spirit magic to possess and control any of the roaming animals. This works just as long as you don’t go too near the enemy, as then you’ll be rumbled and will have to fight them off or leg it.

The controls are generally very good, though there may be a little too much to remember for a young mind, then again IO did create the game to play with their children, so if you’re buying it for your own offspring, perhaps you should play it with them, as well. Switching between characters and using items and magic is achieved through two separate wheels. Combat comes through three buttons: an attack button, a stun button and holding another down to unleash the power attacks. This PS3 version also uses motion sensing in order to shake bushes and trees of their fruit (handy for topping up health), open doors and to defeat some of the enemies.

For those who like a challenge, Mini Ninjas is certainly not meant for you. As mentioned earlier, combat is a breeze, and levelling up continues to make things even easier, whilst health is easy to come by, as, not only can it be found in the form of fruit or potions, but it’s also possible to brew your own items (health potions included) with ingredients such as flowers, mushrooms and herbs found throughout each level. Other than ingredients, there’s also other collectibles for you to seek out, which does add to the lifespan, although if you’re not one for finding items, following the completion of what is a fairly short quest, the game doesn’t have a great deal of immediate replay value to speak of.

But Mini Ninjas childish charm and its beautiful cartoon environments makes the game such a joyous experience, and this is coming from a 26-year-old adult. It’s a great kids game that will almost certainly light up their faces, though it also managed to light up mine, as well. Small children may not care much for lifespan, though for anyone else it may be a better buy at a cheaper price.