There are many games out there; some designed to bring engagement and enjoyment through the telling of vast and expanding in-depth stories, some to bring tense decision making and adrenaline pumping action to assault the senses, and some to bring out the animalistic behaviours residing within, all via some competitive online multiplayer. Sometimes though, a game arrives that wants nothing more than to prove you are not superhuman.
You know the ones, they can often be found throwing over the top and incredibly difficult challenges your way; challenges that either require the skills of a god or years of practice to even comprehend taking them on. Often it is these which are the go-to games for speedrunners and videogame masochists alike. Save the Ninja Clan is the latest game to bring such a challenge, but does it have the quality to be a great title or is it an overbearing mess of difficulty?
The idea of Save the Ninja Clan is quite a simple one really. An evil ninja has kidnapped your friends, and it is up to you to traverse the world and collect scrolls in order to save them. Throughout the game, you play as different ninjas, with each one capable of a different ability. The Green ninja comes with a double jump, the Purple ninja has a sprint, and the Grey ninja comes sporting a dash that also gives temporary invincibility. It’s worth noting that each ninja does take a little time to get used to, and you’ll be needing to master them all should you want to truly master Save the Ninja Clan.
As for the gameplay, Save the Ninja Clan isn’t the most original game on the market, instead providing what may just be the closest resemblance you’ll ever see to Super Meat Boy. From level design to gameplay, Save the Ninja Clan is pretty much the same game – at least should you have swapped Meat Boy for a team of ninjas. But that’s not a bad thing, and it does indeed have enough differences, even if only subtle, to be classed as a separate game for those worrying that buying would result in nothing more than a reskin.
For a start, there are two ways to play Save the Ninja Clan. First up is the traditional story mode. This sees you progress through several increasingly difficult platform stages in which you are required to reach the end as quickly as possible, grab a scroll in order to progress on and save the ninja clan. Upon completing a level, you will get a grading for your time, with A+ the rating you’re looking for if you want to truly master each one. Those going for 100% should also note that each level has a ying and yang symbol to collect that work much the same as the bandages from Super Meat Boy, each of which will add to your time. As well as ratings and collectibles, each stage ends with an all-in-one type replay, which shows the various attempts you’ve made on a level with multiple ninjas appearing at once to showcase each fail.
The other way to play Save the Ninja Clan isn’t exactly an extra game mode as such, as really it takes place amongst the usual levels. However it does add a fresh way to experience the game, especially if you’ve made it to the end. This is more like an alternate story mode and has you chasing down all of the secrets and bugs in the game, causing the Game Manager watching you to get annoyed and occasionally send you off to the next level. Whilst this may not provide much more than a little extra Gamerscore for tracking each levels bugs or secrets, it does make for an interesting way to play the game. One of my favourite secrets even had the Game Manager switch the controls to make things even more difficult, and is a great way of prolonging the game should you have already made your way to the end.
Those who paid attention to the earlier paragraphs of this review, rather than racing straight to the pros and cons, will recall my comparison of Save the Ninja Clan to Super Meat Boy. Whilst that is very much an accurate statement, seeing the end of this adventure isn’t one that will require the best skills in the world. Of course, Save the Ninja Clan is by no means a walk in the park, but should you find things too difficult – or for the masochists amongst you, too easy – you can always switch the speed of the game up or down in the options menu. This can make taking on the various obstacles and enemies a much easier task, and helps open the game to a wider audience who may have previously been turned away by the crushing difficulty.
Another unique feature of Save the Ninja Clan is the knife. The knife comes with several different modifications that can be unlocked throughout the game. It is an important part of the play, with it often used to progress past areas you wouldn’t be able to with a simple jump. For example, one use I found worked great was throwing it at an oncoming obstacle so I could jump on it, and then over, as quickly as possible – that helped avoid slowing down and gaining unwanted time on my score.
Finally, you have the boss fights and whilst these can also be made easier or harder with the in-game speed setting, those wanting to really experience these at their best will want to ramp that speed right up. Whilst most games prove exceptionally frustrating should you find yourself messing with a near unbeatable boss, the boss fights in Save the Ninja Clan provide some of the best platforming action available, asking you to muster everything you’ve learned up to now and put it all to use to beat an exceptionally challenging level. Whilst that may sound off putting for those looking for a casual challenge, the enjoyment you get from beating any of the three is indeed worth it, and you can always switch things down if it’s taking the fun away.
Save the Ninja Clan isn’t the most unique title on the market, but it has more than enough to warrant recognition as its own game. Sure, it is incredibly reminiscent of Super Meat Boy, but as a game everyone enjoyed so much, that really isn’t a bad thing. For just $2.99, this is possibly one of the best value for money titles you’ll buy this year.