Video games have always shown us new ways to interact with the world around us and some go about this by providing us a multitude of tasks along with complex controls to make things work. Activating a series of button inputs or scrolling through countless menus before taking action has been something Gamers have been use to for quite some time. Although these are fun ways to enhance the experience and keep the player going, it is nice to be able to play something that keeps things simple. Ninja or Die:Shadow of the Sun takes a simple approach and keeps things interesting while providing enough mechanics to make the player feel powerful.
Inspired by Japanese folklore, Ninja or Die puts players in the shoes of a common pickpocket that has been transformed into a powerful ninja with an extreme amount of mobility. A cataclysm has been foreseen that spells out doom for humanity as a whole by a thief. This is no ordinary thief however but instead a great thief that is known across the land. This master thief is also your mother. The story here has an interesting start but where things really begin to shine is in the gameplay.
Simplicity is something that many games skip over and instead aim for complicated mechanics and controls that make use out of every button and combination that you can think of. Ninja or die takes the opposite approach and handles it exceptionally well. Instead of having controls to move our character and to attack, it is all rolled into one smooth action. As we move the mouse around the screen, we can see an arc in which he will jump. Holding in the jump button allows for us to make larger jumps and positioning enemies within our movement line will allow for the ninja to unleash devastating attacks. Need to use an item? No need to pull up a multitude of menus if you don’t want to. Instead, there are dedicated buttons for scrolling through your inventory and items can be used right away. It was nice to jump into a game without spending quite some time trying to memorize the controls or worrying about being overwhelmed with mechanics. Utilizing items, attacking, moving the character, and traversing the map can all be done with the mouse.
The colors are muted and the screen is full of flashy distractions while enemies have a bad habit of blending into the environment. This wouldn’t be so bad if the game wasn’t so focused on being a fast paced adventure where each movement must be well thought out. The colors are muted with some attacks and items stand out against the diluted colors but in the midst of combat, it was painful to have to slow to a crawl just to see what it was that I needed to jump to next. The gold that is picked up over the course of the game doesn’t stand out either so more often than not, I found myself just sitting on a screen and trying to make sure I didn’t miss anything before moving on to the next segment.
Over the course of each mission, there will be villagers that can be saved and sent back to your home base in order to upgrade some of the facilities that you have available. There is a bank that allows you to deposit some cash so that when you die, you don’t end up bankrupting yourself. There is also a back alley doctor who is capable of upgrading your stats which is perfect for the roguelite nature of the game. The village serves as a nice break away from all the action.
Ninja or die will put you in maps full of equal parts danger and equal parts loot so it is important that you are aware of the situation you are going into as well as paying attention to the world around you. WIth enemies and traps spread throughout each level, one wrong move could spell ‘game over’ for the player that is simply trying to proceed without putting thought into their next movement. I ran across a level that had me jumping up a valley while being pursued by dangerous blades that were waiting to spell the end for myself. Along the path, I ran across an alcove that had a clear sign saying that I should enter but curiosity got the best of me. I was already in the cave for too long only to realize that it was a trap set by the developer to persuade me from pulling stunts like that in the future. The promise of upgrades and collectibles had me exploring each corner of the map in search of something new. Thankfully, you are able to move the camera around and get a clear look as to what is going on so there is no need to worry about getting lost or taking unnecessary leaps of faith down a hole that has no end.
Ninja or die is an interesting game that takes its simplicity and runs with it. For those looking for something quick and easy to pick up, this is definitely a title worth putting on the list.