Mark of the Ninja is the last game I played on my Xbox 360 before I put it away for the foreseeable future. Not this version, I bought this after I let the console stay dormant for two months before getting a free copy in a Humble Bundle. Which means I own three versions of this game, something I can’t say about anything aside from the first three Sonic games, which I actually own about four copies of… Damn, I didn’t even realize that until just now! Okay, okay, let’s talk about them Ninjasks named Mark.
Mark of the Ninja Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Xbox 360, Mac, Linux
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Mark of the Ninja is a 2D stealth titles with the perspective being the far more common side scroller perspective as opposed to the more common overhead style that was where the genre was more or less birthed. With the stealthiness being very close to the title’s heart, as it takes the far more old fashioned approach to stealth titles where you can’t really work your way out of a hairy situation with force. As anything more than a passing glance from the guards of the areas you’re sneaking through will send them in the expected frenzy where restarting the checkpoint is the most crucial goal.
Not that getting into such a sticky situation ever feels like it is the fault of the player, as they are left to their own devices, sometimes literally, with a goal in mind for the twelve missions available. Leaving all the information they would need nicely laid out in the game’s hud or just by watching the screen. Vision is represented by a cone, lights are striking and make the main character bright up, and noises are visually shown when you do decide to break a light or run, allowing for strategies to very naturally come to reality. With the always annoying desire I bizarrely have to play through these sorts of games non lethally thankfully not being much of a concern, as you are awarded points based on your interactions with guards, with a murder frenzy very often being the best option, which does seem rather fitting seeing as how you are going on one big assassination mission for the better part of the game.
Story is kept very light, to the point I don’t recall the main character being so much as named. Instead being signified by one member of a dwindling order of ninjas in modern day Japan who were on the brink of destruction from one Australian organization who took himself as a form of vessel for a mystical and dark tattoo granting one great powers, but with the fear of a corrupt mind. That is until the big bad who dared to attack the ninjas falls halfway through the game, and a not too special twist is played with the plot, before leading to a narratively justified choice moment, but still rather inappropriate feeling one given how linear the majority of the game is aside from experimentation.
Unfortunately, I felt that the experimentation allowed was in some way limited during some of the later levels. As the main character loses his handy sword of simple assassinations, leaving you with only environmental means of elimination until part way through the final level in the game where I spent a good two of my twelve hours with this game, though not for very good reasons. I mentioned the checkpoint system earlier on, and for the most part it works as one would expect, allowing for players to recover from a clean sweep went awry while not losing too much progress, but when the checkpoint puts you right in front of an enemy who sees you right as you reload? I don’t feel the need to explain my issue with it.
Meaning that I reset the stage many a time, and continued to express my illogical craving for perfection through going through the challenge room and going through my own point building strategy, as is the ultimate problem I see when you assign numbers as a game’s end goal. It is along the same reason why I dislike the idea of a ranking system, as the score is more or less a distractor for any game not based around endurance. When instead, the player should just be trying to enjoy the levels, which in the case of Mark of the Ninja, are quiet well designed. Making the most of the mechanics and doing a very nice job in introducing its many mechanics, even if certain ones, such as the super guards who need to be hit with something heavy before a sword can kill them, eventually evaporate.
The developer Klei originally earned some attention back when they showcased the fluent ultraviolence of Shank, and Mark of the Ninja is not all that different. With fluent animation all around, a very stylish use of color to accommodate black being the most prominent one, and the aforementioned visual cues to gameplay, it is a rather pleasant title to watch. At least when you realize how regardless of the animation quality, the motions of murder must be limited, and they are sadly to one per method. Which is not made much better by how a a quick time event is required to cinch the deal without making a ruckus.
Mark of the Ninja is undoubtedly a well executed stealth title, heck, I wouldn’t even hesitate placing it higher than the likes of Deus Ex: Human Revolution or Dishonored. But I am beginning to think I just don’t gel well with impulse driven reflexive titles about going through it on your first go no matter what the outcome may be. So thank you Mark of the Ninja, glad to have a game I can easily call good teach me this lesson as I go and ponder why Metal Gear Solid does not abide by the same rules of stealth games. Aside from how guards regenerate and there are no points until you beat the game… There are issues I had, but I can still call it good, ala The Last of Us.
Applaudable efforts that do get hung up on a few too many branches, but very much deserving of a recommendation despite not being all that astonishing.