Verdict: This is the sort of game you will be itching to play when you are not. The appeal does wear off though.
GENRE: STEALTH SCROLLER
Mark of the Ninja is yet another great game from Klei Entertainment, the creators of Eets, Shank and Shank 2. Unlike the Shank series, Mark of the Ninja is not something you can rush into without thinking and expect to escape unscathed. You need to act like a Ninja, a true emissary of the dark; picking off the enemy one by one, unseen, or better yet, penetrating the enemy lines undetected. The shadows are your friends, hiding you from plain sight. Don’t go into the light, if you are seen the alarm will be raised and you will lose 800 points, which is more than any number of points you can get with most actions (getting Bloody Whisper off an elite guard will get you 800 points and finding a scroll with get you a 1000 points). It is possible to finish this game without once being seen by the enemy or without once being detected. In my first playthrough, I would try and kill every guard because I thought it would help rack up the points. It did but then I would have to hide the bodies and it was too much of a hassle. After finishing the game and unlocking the Plus mode, I decided to go without killing and without being detected. So far (66% into the game) I have been successful in doing so. Plus mode is a harder and a much more fun gaming. You can only see ahead (or wherever you are facing), you will be able to hear noises though, if they are close enough. And if you get shot you die. One bullet is all it takes.
There are six costumes in the game. Aside from two, the rest can be unlocked by performing certain feats of execution, combat, stealth or terror. As for the other two, one you already have from the beginning and the other you unlock much later in the story. So if you play stealthily, you will naturally be rewarded with the stealth costume (Path of Silence) first. All of the costumes however have some downside to them. Except for the Path of the Ninja, which is the default costume with neither advantage nor disadvantage. There also exists an array of ninja tools, both offensive and stealthy which may be unlocked and then possibly upgraded.
For every level you play there are 9 points you can get. There are 3 score targets you must try and achieve, the first being zero which only requires that you finish that level. There are 3 scrolls you must find in each level one of which is guarded by a puzzle chamber. The puzzles are easy.
And then there are 3 feats you must try and achieve. These feats will vary with the levels and if you solve three of any one kind of feat then you will unlock a costume. I managed to get all the points except for one, which is a scroll.
I didn’t find the sound effects to be very convincing, but that is probably because my standards were raised to unrealistic heights after having played through the audio masterpiece that is Hotline Miami. The background music, however was quite good. It keeps the tension ever-present. It is quiet and the sort of music you would expect hear in the ninja era and environment, so that makes it feel natural. With art by Jeff Agala and animation by Aaron Bouthiller, you can set your visual expectations for this game to be high and you will not be disappointed, rather you will be impressed. With the sound rings, concentration mode and other new stuff, the duo have proven that not only will they meet the expected standards but raise them. The fluid motion of this game polygamistically (if that is not a word it should be) coupled with beautiful character design and intricate level art will add greatly to the gaming experience.
Mark of the Ninja was meant to be a complete journey, the whole package, and that is why it’s so great. It delivers what it promises with an awesome ending that will leave you satisfied. In the end, you will feel as though you have said goodbye to a dear friend, and though you will miss them, you know realize what’s important is that you treasure the run you two had together. Oh but wait, there is more. Due to incessant demands from fans, Klei Entertainment has decided to release downloadable content. Check out the Mark of the Ninja blog for updates.