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Mini Ninjas

Mini Ninjas

Considering IO Interactive's history with violent and adult themed games, one of the last things that springs to mind when the Danish developer is mentioned is family oriented adventure games featuring ultra cute, big-headed cartoon ninjas. Until now, that is.

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Meet protagonist Hiro, who along with his tiny ninja friends set out to defeat the evil samurai warlord and his plans for world domination. He has disturbed the very balance of nature by transforming cute and cuddly animals into cute and cuddly - and evil - samurai toddlers to serve in his ever growing army of evil.

Hiro starts out with a pretty limited arsenal of attacks and magic spells, but it expands as he gains experience points through fighting and discovery of hidden altars. As the game progresses, Hiro discoveries a number of captured of ninja friends who once freed become playable allies, all with their own unique combos and special moves. It doesn't take long until Hiro commands a huge number of moves and spells, though it quickly becomes apparent that only a few key moves are needed to complete the game.

I played through pretty much the whole game with Hiro as my chosen character, and only switched to the hammer wielding Futo when confronted with the one enemy in the game who requires you to play as a specific ninja. Apart from that one instance, you're completely free to use which ever ninja, combo or spell you want. I really missed the challenge of figuring out which ninja to use for a particular boss, or use the correct spell to take down certain enemies. The huge combat repertoire is reduced to a means to combat nothing else than the monotony of fighting the same throngs of pretty much the same kind of enemy over and over again.

Mini Ninjas is incredibly charming in many ways, and perhaps mostly thanks to the visuals. The sceneries have a very stylized look - think The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker - and as you sneak your way through jungles, snowy fields, graveyards and villages, you can enjoy wonderful visual eye candy like flames, fog, shadows and the like. At their best, the areas are beautiful cartoon landscapes it's a joy to navigate through, but the minimalism is regrettably a bit too apparent in some parts, and these areas end up anonymous and plain boring to visit.

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The adventure elements of Mini Ninjas are limited to exploration in search of hidden secrets and the oh-so-familiar figuring out the weak spot on the bosses. The story is strangely absent in the game, and nothing really motivates the player to keep playing. The same sequence just keeps looping itself throughout the whole game: The evil samurai warlord laughs evilly as he places a boss in a village, and the player has to navigate through a nature themed area to get there. After sneaking through the village, he fights the boss. A short cut scene shows the samurai warlord yelling at his minions, and then placing another boss in a new village. Rinse and repeat. No explanation, no real presentation of the bosses, and no story progression. I half expected someone to show up and tell me that the princess is in another castle.

Obvious weaknesses in story, combat and variation aside, though: Mini Ninjas is a game that more often than not charmed me half to death. Funny enemies (though far too few variations of them), and occasionally stunning visuals made this an experience to remember, and the game feels unique in many ways. At its best it's a mix between Wind Waker and Sly Raccoon, and the portions of humour and tension are well balanced, while at all times maintaining its family friendly feel. Even though IO Interactive has claimed Mini Ninjas to be a game for all ages, I think kids will like this far better than adult players. All in all a charming - if maybe a bit unfinished - adventure game for a young audience.

Mini Ninjas
Mini Ninjas
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Mini Ninjas
Mini Ninjas
Mini Ninjas
Mini Ninjas
Mini Ninjas
Mini Ninjas
Mini Ninjas
Mini Ninjas
Mini Ninjas
Mini Ninjas
Mini Ninjas
Mini Ninjas
07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
+
Charming characters, nice visuals, funny foes.
-
Repetitive gameplay, non-existent story, empty areas.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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