Microsoft’s XNA indie development scene is home to a surprising amount of quality titles as I found out last night when I stumbled upon retro-puzzling beauty Ninja Bros. It’s classified as a Puzzle & Trivia whose faux 8-bit graphics may give the impression that this is as simple in gameplay as it is in art-style. On the contrary, Ninja Bros can be brutally hard in places.
You start with one blue ninja whose movements are controlled by the left stick and jumps when pressing X – the blue face button. The aim is to make him walk over a blue button in a blue room to open a blue door. Notice a pattern here? Eventually you’ll be controlling either two, three or four different coloured ninjas in different rooms all at the same time with the left stick. They jump independently by pressing one of the face buttons that correspond to their colour. The puzzling part is how you get each of the ninjas to walk over a specific buttons to open every room’s door so they an all progress to the next level. Obstacles like spikes and throwing stars add extra trickery to rooms because if one of your ninjas die, you fail the level.
What seemed an almost flawless experience began to faulty with the mechanics of jumping which felt a little dated. You have to be moving in the direction you want to jump otherwise the ninja will just hop vertically in the air. I know that’s such a trivial comment but some rooms can be very narrow and the puzzles are hard enough to solve without adding another layer of difficulty with controls. But it’s a minor niggle because the rest of the game is brilliant with a wonderfully retro score and endearing art style. Ninja Bros isn’t for the faint-hearted as it gets pretty tough early on but for only 80 MS Points (69p/€0.96/$1) you can’t really go wrong.
A highly commendable game with some truly exceptional moments.