Ninja Reflex is basically the ninja equivalent of Wii Sports: six minigames in which you and your friends energetically wave and point Wii remotes in order to swing swords, hurl throwing stars, and do whatever else it is that ninjas do.
The katana challenge transforms the Wii remote into a sword. You yank the controller sideways or lift it above your head to parry attacks, and then you give it a quick shake to finish off the warrior standing in front of you.
During the throwing star challenge, you and your buddies lock onto moving cardboard targets with your color-coded pointers and rapidly toss star-shaped knives by flicking your wrists.
Another minigame has you aiming an on-screen hand at fish in a pond and then quickly pressing the buttons to snatch them when they break the surface. A similar task involves catching flies with chopsticks.
And then there's the nunchuck challenge. It isn't unbridled violence like you'd expect. Instead, it's a Bruce Lee inspired knockoff of Wii Sports baseball. You wave the controller in a figure-eight motion to get the nunchuks going and jab it forward to lash out at the fruits, vegetables, and other objects that sensei throws your way.
Those minigames rock. The duds on the disc are the firefly spotting challenge, where you simply press a button whenever a firefly appears, and the silly interactive meditation guide that's included as a bonus. Sensei's gruff voice does a nice job of talking you through a meditation session, but is that really the sort of thing you want to do when you fire up a collection of competitive minigames?
Like any good party game, Ninja Reflex is instantly accessible. If you can wave the controller and push a button, you can handle anything these minigames throw at you. The tongue-in-cheek presentation is totally charming too: from the tranquil 3D environments and the sensei that spouts hokey eastern wisdom, to the clangs and shouts that erupt from the controller's speaker as you frantically wave it around.
Occasionally, a movement won't register in the sword and nunchuck minigames, causing you to get pegged in the face. It's annoying when it happens, but the scoring tends to be forgiving and the controls will otherwise do your bidding a solid ninety-five percent of the time.
The main thing to keep in mind is that this is one of those social games, like Wii Sports, that relies on the interplay between players to provide the X factor that the minigames lack. So, you'll have loads of fun playing Ninja Reflex with your friends, but you'll be bored stiff when you play it by yourself. It doesn't help that the payoff for playing through the single player mode is simply unlocking tougher variations of the same minigames.
That leads into the one big complaint we have with Ninja Reflex. There are only six minigames included on the disc. Six. Granted, Wii Sports and Wii Play don't cram 'em in either, and everybody loves those, but $40 for six minigames still feels like a rip.
Mar 11, 2008