Ninja Ponk, formerly Ninja Pong (which, if you ask me, was a better name), is a quirky game that has you bouncing ninjas across gaps in various landscapes with the help of a breakout-style paddle. As with many of the games I’ve enjoyed lately, the mechanics are dead simple, but to do well in the game requires a lot of focus and some pretty good coordination. This game will probably serve more as something to fill time than as something you spend hours at a time on, but oh, what great filler it is!
Now, one might wonder why exactly a group of skilled ninjas would need your help crossing anything, but let’s not quibble here. We have to have some reason for you to participate in this game, right? Anyway, all you have to do is slide your finger back and forth on the screen to direct the paddle – and, of course, make sure the ninjas land on the paddle so they will get safely across the gap. You can touch anywhere on the screen, but your hand makes a better door than a window, so it’s advisable to keep it as close to the bottom of the screen as possible. I’ve played the game on both an iPod touch and an iPad, and this feat is not very difficult on either device.
Besides the obvious challenge of the gap in the middle of these poor ninjas’ path, their journey won’t be easy. Some ninjas like to grandstand and perform more than one jump, so you have to be ready to keep them afloat while not dropping any of the other ninjas. Throwing stars temporarily make your paddle smaller, while flaming arrows get lodged in and burn up any unsuspecting ninja until you shake them off. Bombs simply end the game should they come in contact with an unprotected paddle. Obviously your best bet is to dodge these items, but sometimes they just can’t be avoided (well, you should always avoid the bomb). If you get a collection of arrows, just swipe back and forth quickly a couple of times to get rid of them.
There are two game play modes: endless and arcade, which is subdivided into normal and master. Endless mode is governed by lives – you keep playing until you’ve lost all of them. Thankfully certain ninjas and the occasional power-up will help replenish your lives, but as the game progresses you’ll start losing them a lot more rapidly as well. Arcade mode gives you 60 seconds to score as many points as you can, and in this mode you can drop ninjas like it’s nobody’s business. Of course, that doesn’t help your score any, but at least it can get you out of a sticky situation without feeling too bad. You earn money based on your final score on a level as well as coins you’ve collected throughout the level. This money can be used to buy power-ups and cool-looking helmets in the store. Naturally there are a couple of items that require real world money to buy, and you can also supplement your in-game coin stash with real loot.
The graphics are charming. The backgrounds are nicely detailed and have quite a bit of motion to them. The ninjas actually kind of look like bobble-heads once you start getting some helmets on them, and while at first I thought it looked kind of funny, it does grow on you rather quickly. The sound effects work well enough, and I do rather enjoy the child-like screams of joy at the end of a level. The music sounds good, but there are only two tracks – one during the menus and one while playing a level. The exception to this is the Christmas level, which does have its own theme.
If you’re looking for that next fun casual game that doesn’t fit into the legions of “me-toos” on the App Store, Ninja Ponk is just what you’re looking for. The action is fast and furious (unless, of course, you’re playing endless mode and are actually good) and it’s easy enough to play for a few minutes or more, depending on your available time. Earning achievements and enough money to buy out the store will keep you busy for a while, and continually trying to best your scores will occupy you even longer. Just remember, even ninjas need your help sometimes.
Overall Score: 9/10
App Store Link
This game was tested on both an iPod Touch running iOS 5.0.1 and an iPad running iOS 4.3.5.