The Mark of the Ninja is a 2D stealth-platformer game made by Klei Entertainment. You play as an unnamed ninja who is sent on a mission to save his clan. Marked with cursed tattoos that enhance your senses, will you be a silent ghost or a brutal assassin?
It has been a while since I played a stealth game that I enjoyed immensely. I think the last stealth game I played was Stealth Bastard Deluxe….in March?
As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, you play as an unnamed male ninja who has been given cursed tattoos that enhance his senses. These tattoos also come at the price of the person’s sanity hence prior to accepting the tattoo, you have sworn an oath to protect the clan and to commit seppuku once your mission has been fulfilled. You are accompanied by a female ninja named Ora who drops hints and advice throughout the levels.
Mark of the Ninja reminds you what ninjas are all about. Stealth. Masters of the shadow and being invisible. Therefore the game encourages you to be stealthy since it is not a good idea to take enemies head-on. It usually ends with you dying before you can take one enemy out. Even the environment is designed to encourage players to take the stealth approach, along with giving the player attack tools and distraction items to lure and misdirect enemies.
The controls are amazingly fluid. Although, sometimes I tend to forget which buttons to press, so instead of dangling off a grappling hook to do a stealth kill…I jump right in front of the enemy and get shot to death. Sadness. Anyways, the fluid controls make movement and combat smooth. Soon you will be jumping, gliding and sneaking around levels with ease, and often within seconds from being spotted or killed by a trap.
The story was interesting; the premise of a traditional ninja clan struggling in a changing world. You begin the game waking up to the sound a warning bell ringing and gun-fire. You find out the clan is under attack for unknown reasons by the Hessian Corporation, after saving your fellow brethren and saving your mentor; he tasks you as the champion of the clan to kill the Count Karajan who owns the company. However when you return from the mission, you find that everything is not what it seems. Combine with the animated cut-scenes with capable voice-acting; you got a solid game right there. Although the cut-scenes mostly just serve as a way to link your actions with the context of the story. Most of the story is revealed from your female accomplice and the scrolls that you can find hidden throughout the levels.
You travel large levels in various settings from the Asian urbanscape, a European castle, and an ancient temple in the desert to name a few. I am not kidding when I say the levels are large, they are large enough that you will be checking your map occasionally to find where your goals are.
I love the gameplay for Mark of the Ninja. It allows you the freedom to choose your “path” in how you want to finish the level. You can either go all-out as an assassin, brutally killing your enemies. Be a ghost that they never knew you were there. Terrify your enemies into killing each other in fear. The stealth-kill animations are quite satisfying to watch. You can hide bodies, or use them as a tool to terrify/distract your enemies. While seeing the kill animations were great, seeing guards become so terrified that they attack their own allies is equally satisfying.
As I said earlier on, you are given ‘ninja’ tools that can aid you. Depending on your “path” [aka ninja outfit] you are limited to either distraction items or attack items, or none at all. Distraction tools are obviously, as the name suggests tools that can distract your enemies to allow you to sneak past them or kill them. Although the smoke bombs have a second useful function, allowing you to block lasers temporarily. Attack tools aid you in killing the enemy. The only tool in your arsenal that is limitless is the bamboo darts.
As the game progresses, you can earn tokens that allow you to unlock new techniques, costumes (changing the playing style) and tools. I think I am missing about two items which would had allowed me to get the achievement for unlocking all of them. Can’t help myself, I get the achievement hunter itch occasionally.
Enemies are very limited in this game, however they have different characteristics. Normal guards can be easily taken out, another guard will shoot a flare if he detects something suspicious and has a shield thus making it important to get behind him undetected. You also have ‘elite’ guards who can only be killed once they are stunned and they are hard to stun, even then you have to move quick before he recovers. I think the enemies I hated the most were dogs and the stalkers. Dogs mostly since their range was so wide that it made sneaking up on them difficult at times. Stalkers because…they are enemies that take away all the advantages you have.
Once you finish the game on the normal play-through, you can start play a mode called New Game Plus which allows you to start a new game but keep all the items you unlocked before. So you keep all the costumes, items and techniques you unlocked already, but it does make the game harder such as removing the sound bubble and enemies are not as easy to kill.
The game does keep track of score as you play so you can look at the leader-board to see how you compare to your friends or just your performance on the level/story. The game does include challenge rooms to test your skills while retrieving a scroll. I actually enjoyed those challenge rooms, sometimes more so than the game itself.
Mark of the Ninja is a great stealth-platformer game with a great story. The ending was satisfying since it allows you to make your decision based on the information you know. Although you could always replay the level to see both endings. Even then, there is still plenty of replay value to either complete the goals you missed or find the missing scrolls and that is including the new game plus mode. With that said, I am off to check out the Special Edition of the game to see what the dlc offers!