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Shukuchi Ninja Review

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Shukuchi Ninja isn’t like any ninja we’ve encountered before. Ryu Hayabusa or Shinobi wouldn’t stand for being fired like an angry bird at their enemies. We’d imagine it’s against their code and more than a little demeaning. 

Shukuchi Ninja doesn’t care. He’s more than happy to be tossed at his enemies for a quick decapitation. He’s basically being used like a human-sized shuriken. 

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There’s more than a hint of Angry Birds…

Another analogy for how Shukuchi Ninja plays is Party Golf and What the Golf? Those games are real-time, fast-paced games of golf, where waiting for the ball to stop is positively frowned on. Shukuchi Ninja plays a lot like those games, just swapping the crisp whites for some ninja blacks. You are firing your ninja like a golf ball around an arena, killing enemies as you go (it diverges from golf here). Hopefully, that’s beginning to give you an idea of what’s on the green with Shukuchi Ninja. 

Each level is a 2D space filled with enemy ninjas. There’s a running total of these ninjas in the bottom-left of the screen, and your job is to take this tally down to zero. Kill every last one, and a portal will open at one end of the level. That’s your cue to hot-tail it out of there. 

You kill the enemies by, as mentioned, lobbing your ninja at them. You are pulling back on the ninja in a particular direction, which simultaneously slows time and gives you the opportunity to pull off a killer shot. Once you have the direction and strength-of-shot that you’re after, you let go and watch your ninja fly. With luck, he will nick the edges of an enemy, cutting them in half and taking that tally down further. 

Each level has a limit to the number of ninja-tosses that you get, so you’re playing sensibly. Single shots that kill multiple ninjas are encouraged, as you get Unreal Tournament-style notifications when you chain deaths together. You are handily given other moves, too, to raise those combos up further. Toss shurikens, which are limited but picked up in the levels, and pull off a single-shot teleport that brings you to the closest enemy for a quick stabby stabby.

Shukuchi Ninja isn’t invincible, however. Roll slowly at an enemy and they’re likely to attack you back. Enemies soon learn to throw stuff at you or move. And traps litter the levels, requiring you to anticipate them and find a looping shot that avoids them. There’s a health bar to absorb all this damage, but it’s got its limits. Reach zero and you have the opportunity to restart the level or use a limited number of continues. You’ll need them: it’s pretty common to die or run out of moves, so a swift restart will give you the chance of success.

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Shukuchi Ninja has Party Golf vibes too

It all sounds like jolly old fun, but we didn’t like it much. Someone has swapped Shukuchi Ninja’s smoke bombs for stink bombs, as there’s something that smells rotten at its core. 

Someone should have pushed a copy of Party Golf or What the Golf? into the developers’ hands, because those games got something right that Shukuchi Ninja doesn’t. The ninja experiences momentum, and that momentum continues with each shot. Let’s offer an example to make it a wee bit clearer: imagine that you fire Shukuchi Ninja at an enemy but miss. You would slow down time and try to fire back at the enemy, right? Well, your ninja is still experiencing the forward momentum of the first shot, so if you fire 180 degrees backwards at the enemy you’ve missed, then all you are doing is canceling the original momentum. You drop to the floor instead. Which is boring, and not at all what you want. 

This constant wrestling with momentum and physics is tiresome to the utmost. Most of your moves will be spent correcting or righting your direction, rather than firing at a baddy. We wanted to be stabbing people in the gut, but most of the time we were trying to turn a broken shopping trolley. 

Those feelings of being cumbersome and unwieldy don’t stop there. For unfathomable reasons, you can fall off the edges of the screen. Fire into a gap in the ceiling and you’ll lose a life. Overshoot an enemy and you might pass through a gap in the sides of the screen. Why there aren’t walls and ceilings throughout the level is beyond us. It certainly wouldn’t have made the game any less fun. 

There’s a constant leap (fling?) of faith at play, too. You can rarely see where you’re firing: the levels are too big for that, and your trajectory can take you well offscreen. So, very suddenly, you can be lying in a bed of traps, or finding yourself offscreen. You can’t survey the full arena, so it’s just a guessing game. Sometimes death, other times a combo of enemy ninjas. It’s quite the Russian roulette. 

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But ultimately, it’s a bit naff.

To complete the buffet of naffness, the objective of killing everything is also on the rubbish side. You can be merrily moving through the level, killing everyone, only to find that you have one or two enemies left. They’re way back at the start of the level, but you’ve only got a few moves left. You can guess what happens: it’s a restart or a continue. Something similar happens when you kill those last two stragglers. The portal will be on the other end of the arena, but you won’t have enough moves to get there. We can feel our blood boiling all over again. 

Very, very rarely, the planets align and Shukuchi Ninja flings itself somewhere close to enjoyment. When you pull off a killer shot that combos several enemies, with ‘Unbelievable!’ plastered over the screen, it can feel rather good. Shukuchi Ninja is also original, and certainly not what we expected from the title. 

But these are footnotes to the frustration. Shukuchi Ninja isn’t anywhere near as good as the games it’s closest to – namely Party Golf and Angry Birds. Instead, it’s everything that a ninja isn’t. It’s clumsy, awkward, and more likely to hurt you than the enemies you’re aiming for. 

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • It’s found something original
  • Plenty of levels to explore
  • Pulling off combos can feel satisfying
Cons:
  • Infuriation is off the charts
  • Momentum and physics apply annoying rules
  • Did there need to be an Out of Bounds?
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - 2Awesome Partners
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
  • Release date and price - 31 March 2023 | £4.99
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>It’s found something original</li> <li>Plenty of levels to explore</li> <li>Pulling off combos can feel satisfying</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Infuriation is off the charts</li> <li>Momentum and physics apply annoying rules</li> <li>Did there need to be an Out of Bounds?</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - 2Awesome Partners</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC <li>Release date and price - 31 March 2023 | £4.99</li> </ul>Shukuchi Ninja Review
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