I-Ninja review

Ninja games are nothing new but you won't have played one quite like this. Wax on, wax off, it is not, explains PSM2

You can keep your Tenchu. Stick your Crouching Tiger where the sun don't shine. Forget stealth kills and sneaking around - what ninja games really need are masked men with inflated heads rolling around attached to bowling balls and boxing matches between giant mechs. Honest, they do. Really.

I-Ninja's a curious concoction. Being the product of co-operation between Namco and UK coders Argonaut and published by Sony. The thing is it feels like a Namco game right away - bold, brash and brilliantly crafted - so why they didn't develop it themselves is a mystery. Whatever, it makes no difference to the quality of the game.

Rather than being a stereotypical platforming or action game, it's a huge melting pot of diverse ingredients, all thrown together to make a tasty ninja pie. Each of the game's main areas serves as a hub, through which Ninja (imaginative name, huh?) can access different missions - depending on which belt (yellow, green, red, etc) he's earned. The thing is you never quite know what to expect. Sometimes you'll be wading through enemies with your increasingly-powerful Katana, other times you'll be running the gauntlet through jets of flame while balanced on a barrel of gunpowder. Then you're in a nuclear-powered sub facing off with a massive mechanical fish, before a spot of rail grinding and fending off invading fleets of ships with a mounted gun turret.

This could so easily have gone wrong, but Argonaut have balanced the different elements spot-on and you don't ever feel that you're getting bored of the individual bits. Ninja's range of skills is always entertaining - whether running along walls, swinging around on the end of a chain, chucking shurikens, or running back and forth in half pipes like Sonic The Hedgehog . The hero's one-liners even provide enough comedic relief to break out a wry smile now and again.

Sure, many of I-Ninja's elements have been used before (Prince Of Persia's wall-scurrying springs immediately to mind), but Argonaut have cleverly glued everything together into a package that feels fresh. It mightn't be everyone's idea of ninja cool, but there's already a warm place for it in our affections. Top stuff. Adrian Lawton

I-Ninja is released in March.

More Info

PlatformGameCube, Xbox, PS2