Let’s play What If. What if Mr. Miyagi hadn’t been grooming the Karate Kid to win a martial arts tournament, but to clean cars really, really well? How about if in The Matrix, Morpheus had taken Neo into the virtual dojo to learn the calming benefits of yoga rather than showing him how to deliver kicks to the face? Soul-sapping dullness? Correct!
Ninja Reflex consists of six minigames that never get round to letting you be a ninja. In one, you throw shuriken at targets. In another, you catch flies with chopsticks. The third involves catching koi in a pond. The closest to being fun are the two combat games, one involving swinging a katana at incoming soldiers by clicking the right mouse direction and slashing, and the shuriken throwing game. Hands down the dullest involves simply clicking the mouse when a firefly appears on screen - an epic clash for anyone who gets excited by wholemeal bread products. And chutney.
The strangest part of Ninja Reflex is that being the first game to use Valve’s Steamworks system - a way to get things like multiplayer and automatic updates for free - the developers felt the urge to break the game’s pleasant enough (if ultra stereotypical) atmosphere by stuffing it with gratuitous Half-Life 2 nonsense. The sensei has Gordon’s glasses. When koi fishing, you get a Black Mesa glove. And is that a Strider in the background of the Oni battle? Yes. Yes it is. Very silly.
The more ninja-themed minigames you play, the tougher the challenges get - and at higher levels they’re suitably tense and fast-paced. The price is right for such a simple game, but that doesn’t make playing any more interesting. You’re more likely to get eye-strain than really improve your reflexes, and let’s be honest, the ninja who spends his school years yearning to be really, really good at catching flies is going to be the ninja left hanging by his underpants from the nearest cherry blossom branch at the end of every playtime.
May 12, 2008