REVIEW: Ninja Crash

I knew Ninja Crash (240 MSP) was on the horizon, it having been mostly complete the last time I saw it, but the Dream.Build.Play winner (it took home the third place prize) was a nice surprise this week nonetheless. The game dons its own disguise and adds a few variations to the arcade format of popping the balloons of one’s peers, but it’s really an update of the NES classic Balloon Fight, with a graphical face-lift and the insertion of ninjas (and their lanterns) into the starting lineup.

This isn’t a bad thing. Admitting to my age (and a partial mullet, not sure why my parents thought that was a good idea, even for the 80s), I spent an unhealthy amount of hours on the original. Linking the video for the purposes of this review brought that youthful exuberance (but not the hair, thankfully) back full-force, which was a large part of my excitement to try Team Devil‘s version.

The idea is easy enough; you need height. Each single-screen (exiting the side whisks you to the other end, and vice versa) stage asks you to dispatch a number of floating ninja baddies that have taken your master’s cheese (and it must be some good-ass cheese; it has a halo, for crying out loud). Taking the high ground, both moral and literal, is key, as it’s a pop or be popped scenario. And these scheming stealthy suckers are not slouches but stalwarts, that provide a good balance and challenge on the default setting of normal, and approach something close to demigods on the higher settings.

Similar to Balloon Fight, both you and the enemies have an out if you find yourself without a lantern. If you happen to be near a roof or platform, and don’t fall from a ridiculous height, you can move around and attempt to inflate a single lantern in order to continue the fight. You’re completely vulnerable during this time, but it adds an extra dimension and chance to the game, especially when facing higher enemy counts and on a four-life budget (shared between two players in co-op).

It definitely helps that the levels are logically laid out to allow for offensive and defensive-minded players, with stage-specific hazards (usually of the spiked and pointy variety, though the bottom and top of an arena can claim just as many lives if you’re not careful) and powerups, like shielded lanterns, or blades that can be thrown to pop others’ lanterns or outright eliminate foes, across eight lusciously-illustrated arenas and an extended (some may say annoying) boss fight for the finale.

It’s a solid and fun game at $3, though it loses some points if you’re going to be playing it solo. No matter the difficulty, the campaign levels hold up in single-player even when the game feels like it was built with co-op in mind. Sans friends, you’ll also miss out the other half of Ninja Crash, the local multiplayer battles (up to four) in Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch flavoring, which is your best bet at extending that three dollars once you’ve conquered the campaign levels (about 45 minutes).

Consider it food for thought. Ninja Crash comes recommended either way, a pretty dose of nostalgia and the perfect arcade diversion to put some of your spare time into.

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