Mark Of The Ninja Review
Overall 9

If video game legends Solid Snake and Ezio Auditore have taught gamers anything, it’s that stealth beats brute force every time. Not only does tactical espionage action allow for more open-ended gameplay, it also makes the player look undeniably cool. Stealth missions in 3D might be commonplace, but what if the shadows were a little more…flat? Klei Entertainment’s Mark of the Ninja decides to take a stab in the dark, but does its unorthodox sneaking methods work in harmony or blow its cover?

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Mark Of The Ninja Review

If video game legends Solid Snake and Ezio Auditore have taught gamers anything, it’s that stealth beats brute force every time. Not only does tactical espionage action allow for more open-ended gameplay, it also makes the player look undeniably cool. Stealth missions in 3D might be commonplace, but what if the shadows were a little more…flat? Klei Entertainment’s Mark of the Ninja decides to take a stab in the dark, but does its unorthodox sneaking methods work in harmony or blow its cover?

Mark of the Ninja might have a cliché story, but its execution is anything but. Paired with the task of taking down a shady corporation, the brief cut scenes merely serve as window dressing for the stellar action and atmosphere. With an animation style reminiscent of the hit Cartoon Network show Samurai Jack, our unnamed hero would be right at home fighting alongside everybody’s favorite samurai. The only difference is that this ninja desires a little more bloodshed in his life.

Or not – the choice is yours. One of the joys of Mark of the Ninja comes in the variety of methods available to tackle your mission. Most levels can be summed up as sneaking from point A to point B, but finding a way to get there is a completely different story. There are bonuses for being a pacifist and not harming a single soul, as there are bonuses for slaughtering every last guard in sight. Each notable action adds to a visible point tally, giving the proceedings an arcade-style feel that gets its hooks into you early and demands absolute perfection.

This level of perfection, this way of the ninja, ties into every facet of the game. There are penalties for being caught or performing an imperfect kill, but a number of rewards for going above and beyond the call of duty stand out that much more. The usual garden variety collectibles can be found hidden away in each level, but an additional set of objectives in certain areas will net you a nice bonus. Not only will your score skyrocket for such diligence, the best upgrades in the game are only available to those who mastered their training. If you want the best toys, you’ll have to work for them. The less motivated will have to settle for an inventory full of smoke bombs.

But how easy is it to fill the shoes of a 2D ninja? It’s not as difficult as you think. Button cues help to ease any confusion in the heat of the moment, and a simple lock-on system helps your grapple hook find its target every time. For those looking to plan out their method of attack, a convenient freeze-time ability allows you scope out the area for the best way to terrorize your targets.

Mark of the Ninja has proven its stealth stripes, and has graduated with flying colors. Its approach might be a little bit different, but that does not make it any less worthy than its peers. Here’s hoping this unnamed hero will return.

This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Mark Of The Ninja