I've read a lot of wonderful things about Mark of the Ninja, and the summary of people's opinions on the game seems to be that it is the best (yet) two-dimensional stealth game. Having heard that, I am also aware that this game is from Klei Entertainment, the same people who brought us the Shank games. And honestly, those are some of the most disappointing games I'e played this generation, just because they looked so good, and had so much style, and were just so tedious.
Here's hoping that Mark of the Ninja is everything it's cracked up to be.
Mark of the Ninja
This game is gorgeous.
I really love when studios have a house style. Don't get me wrong - I love how Double Fine switches graphical style from game to game, and how Brutal Legend, Stacking, Psychonauts, Sesame Street, and The Cave could not be more disparate graphically. But there's something to be said for studios like Q-Games or thatgamecompany, when you can look at a game and recognize the minds behind it. This is a means of branding that is more akin to movies, with recognizable directorial style. I know what a Spielberg movie looks like, more or less, and I know what a Team Meat or Edmund McMillan games looks like.
My problem with Shank and Shank 2 was never the style. In fact, if it were not for the artistic flair of those games, they would border on irredeemable for me. Mark of the Ninja has all of the style of the Shank games and then some. The animated cut scenes scattered between levels are well-drawn, and have really great production value.
The only exception I would make in my adoration of the graphics is (and this is after only a few hours playing the game) that it's a little dark. It's almost like Klei is making up for the perpetually sun-bathed environments of the Shank games. I suppose in a game about ninjas and whatnot, there need to be a lot of shadows. In any case, this is a small criticism levied against a truly beautiful game.
Coming off of some of the platformers I've been playing (which I will look at here in short order), the game feels very slow to me. If I were in the sort of mindset where I hadn't been playing fast-paced games and I was looking to play a thoughtful, slower game, I would describe it as methodical. Having said that, The action feels very deliberate and satisfying, down to the speed of walking/running and the height of the character's jumps.
The game is very sticky. This manifests itself in some great ways, and, for me, one incredibly frustrating way. At any point int he game, you can freeze time in order to aim projectiles and what have you. This is a brilliant mechanic, as it assures that the game remains focused on the puzzle element of gameplay rather than the fast-fingered action game elements. In this view, your aiming sticks to objects and enemies that would be useful to target. Great. Wonderful. This is perfect, and there is unlimited time to select a target.
However, the stickiness of the game comes up again more prominently when moving around. Now, I'm willing to write this off to a certain extent because I likely haven't spent enough time with the game to get use to how the characters moves. But the character sticks to ledges and walls and ceilings in way that, as someone who absolutely loves straight platformers, was occasionally frustrating. Wanting to jump from ledge one to ledge three and having your protagonist magnetize himself to ledge two is never a fun experience. However, again, seems that I simply wasn't used to the way the character moved.
On a meta-level, this game is going to drive me nuts, in a good way. There are collectibles to be found, there are scores to be beaten and medals to win, and there are times to be clocked. This is a game to be perfected, and I do love to perfect my games when possible.
I feel that, if I take the time, I could get deep into Mark of the Ninja. For that reason, I absolutely
Mark of the Ninja. For the moment, though, I'm going to head right along and take a look at
Scratches: Director's Cut
by Nucleosys. This is going to be the first horror game I've taken a look at, and I hope it's a good one.