iPhone Life magazine

Review: NinjaBoy by 2 Ton Studios

There was a day long before the mobile revolution when video game consoles reigned supreme, and many might have even said that computers were no good for anything other than causal games or low action fare like adventure games.  I did a lot of console gaming back in the 8 and 16 bit eras, and one thing that was common among many games was that they were hard.  It could be fair to say that some bordered on being impossible.  Ironically, that was part of what appealed to gamers back then.  The folks at 2 Ton Studios are clearly a product of that era as well, as evidenced by their premiere release Ninja Boy.  My feelings towards the game shift at any given moment from intense enjoyment to sheer frustration, but in the end I’m almost positive I don’t regret any of the time I’ve spent with it.

Big, Green, Mean
 

You play young Tadeo, one of two that managed to escape your kingdom when the evil lord Hito took over.  Now you have a long road ahead of you as you must train through 80 levels of monsters, traps and more to ultimately confront the villainous mastermind and restore peace to your land.  The thing is this is a puzzle game, so as much as you’d love to charge in fists blazing on every occasion possible, more often than not stealth will prove to be the victor.  Depending on how much you want to get out of the game, however, it ultimately comes down to a test of patience and the ability to resist twitchy-ness, which has proven extremely interesting for me.

To move around in the game you use tilt controls.  The majority of the screen will activate Tadeo’s ability to jump, though once you get the dragon chop ability you’ll use a sliver on the left side of the screen for that (or the right, depending on your settings).  I haven’t gotten far enough to know how other abilities work yet.  There are no sensitivity settings, which is bad for a twitch-miester like myself, and has certainly caused an excessive amount of deaths.  I also find at times that the jump doesn’t seem to be as responsive as I’d like.  Needless to say, I’ve become well acquainted with the restart level button.

Laser?  What Laser?
 

A level is broken down into stars, time and efficiency, and you can earn a rank from Novice to Grandmaster in each.  All you need to do to finish the game is make it out of each level alive, but to really complete the game you’ll want to earn the Grandmaster ranking in each category on each level.  Plus, you get a really cool outfit if you do that.  Once you get past the controls (or if you don’t have any problems in the first place) you’ll see that there’s really some interesting level design, and a whole lot of that “deceptively easy” thing going on.  So far I’ve only run into three types of bad guys, but two of them can actually help you beat the levels instead of just getting in your way, which is pretty nifty.

The graphics are a decent middle ground between cartoony and detailed, and the characters are well animated.  The backgrounds have just enough flash to not look like generic backdrops from old 60’s cartoons, and everything blends nicely together.  The sound effects aren’t bad, though I really wish the monsters actually made some noise.  For some reason the bad guys seemed to get neglected a lot in the audio department.  The music is good, but it’s often hard to hear when there’s any amount of noise present.  It would also be nifty if each area had its own theme.

I'm The Map...
 

As I mentioned in the beginning, I often drift between love for and frustration towards this game.  There’s no question that I feel quite accomplished when I get the Grandmaster ranking on all three criteria of a level, but there have been a few times that I was half tempted to delete the game from my device.  In the end, though, I think the developers have accomplished their goal: create a game that looks a bit more modern but plays like the console treasures of the 8 and 16 bit eras.  If you can handle that kind of challenge, you’ll definitely want to check out Ninja Boy.

Overall Score: 8/10
App Store Link

This game was reviewed on an iPod Touch 4 running iOS 5.1.1.

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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.