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Mini Ninjas - preview

IO's shift has to be one of the oddest in recent memory. From Hitman's brutality and Kane & Lynch's sweary language to a cel-shaded ninja jaunt? Our hero, er, Hiro, can even turn into a cute panda. If Kane and Lynch ever met a panda they'd blow it up with a bazooka...
 
Interestingly, Mini Ninjas borrows ideas from both of IO's recent worlds. You can go in stabby-stabby action style or sneak in like our favourite barcoded baldy. Maybe it's Hiro's dumpy stature, but the action reminds us of the Lego games. Speedy button-hammering is translated by Hiro into mad flourishes, but it's not exactly difficult.


 
Luckily, an arsenal of ninja tools and ninja pals keep things fresh. When Hiro's blade glances off burly hides it's time to swap-in lardy Futo for a bit of whack-a-ninja with his handy mallet. Alternatively, you could instead rummage around in Hiro's pocket for cherry bombs, shurikens or a ninja fireball. Cherry bombs are the best, exploding ninja squadrons into puffy clouds.
 
Hiro's magic is the backbone to Mini Ninjas' best stealthy moments. By simply waving his hands he can possess animals. Bringing down a feudal warlord's stronghold may seem tricky in chicken form, but what guard is going to give a hen a second glance as it clucks on through the entrance? Possess a larger animal - a panda or boar - and Hiro can unleash furry pain while the animal takes the spears and arrows...



The combat's ease means you don't have to worry about enemy encounters, but slinking around is satisfying enough to tempt you from brawling. Invading the castle of the Earth Lord - one of the nasty types poisoning the land - there's great fun to be had taking to the rooftops and legging it along lantern strings while guards foolishly patrol below. If Pixar made a Tenchu game we'd imagine it would look like this.
 
If only IO could up the combat stakes to make the softly-softly approach worthwhile. We're all for freedom to choose, but each choice has to earn its place. A mini fix could make for big fun.

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5 comments

  • cart00n - September 1, 2009 9:53 p.m.

    Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised by the demo as well. I explored every nook and cranny of that demo looking for all the collectibles. Definitely a good patch for my Zelda withdrawals. Too bad I'm gonna have to put this one off for a while - not in my gaming budget this year. Definitely gonna put it on my Goozex list when it's available...
  • crumbdunky - September 3, 2009 9:24 a.m.

    I was impressed with the demo as well. I was actually a little surprised that it isn't a licensed property from a cartoon film if I'm honest as the character models are so good but the game's way better than most of that kind and it is odd that IO have created such a family friendly game apropos of, from what I can tell, nothing-and on every platform too! Great looking game for those who, like me, enjoy a decent game that doesn't patronise you to play with the kids. Hopefully the stealthy approach will be essential for a few later levels-I think it will be as the demo's quite well designed, imo
  • ShadowGryphon - September 2, 2009 4:06 a.m.

    I played the demo on Steam and had alot of fun with it. It'll be well worth getting when it's released.
  • Tasty_Pasta - September 1, 2009 7:17 p.m.

    I was really surprised by the MiNi NiNjAs demo, but most of that was probably because I'd never heard of it before. I was pleasantly surprised, and had a lot of fun with it. I'm definitely buying it.
  • DeadGirls - September 1, 2009 5:18 p.m.

    I don't know what part of the game you guys played, but I played the demo, which felt like an early level, and it seemed like the combat could easily get difficult enough to require alternate tactics later in the game. I downloaded the demo as a lark, its not really my kind of game, but I really like it. I'll definitely buy it on STEAM when it comes out.

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