November 10, 2008

A new DS game that is based on a line of toys and comics for young children would expectedly be akin to shovelware, a husk of a game that is nothing more than marketing assistance funded by its purchasers as much as its purveyors. Ninjatown is not that game. Instead, Ninjatown resulted in a simple strategy game that uniquely builds on solid tower defense fundamentals and injects it with humor and replayability.

Ninjatown is loyal to the world upon which it is based; ever-present demons live in a nearby forest, frequently conflicting in various ways with Ninjatown and its many ninjas. These demons launch an unprecedented assault and it is up to Ol’ Master Ninja to defend the different secrets and pieces of Ninjatown from the onslaught.

The demons march in a line down the streets and you must prevent them from either walking off the screen or attacking your object of defense. Gameplay is almost completely stylus based; the menus and layout of the map are arranged perfectly so that they rarely interfere with execution of your strategy. The “towers” in Ninjatown are not towers in the traditional sense but huts manned by two ninja units with their own stats. Tower defense games are not common and Ninjatown’s mechanics here are unique, so some more elaboration is necessary.

Only half of the 8 types of huts are ranged; the majority of defense will actually be performed by ninjas who use melee attacks, which is one of the game’s unique mechanics. The ninjas have their own hit points, and if they go down to zero the ninjas return to the hut, shutting it down temporarily. Melee ninjas also stop engaged enemies in their tracks, but only if they can catch them.

With some demons being slow, heavily-armored and heavy-hitting, while others are highly quick and hard to catch but easy to take down. Air units are still a problem, but the costs involved for ranged units sacrifices your power on melee units, so the challenge isn’t even a dichotomy or trichotomy, but rather some intricate rock-paper-scissors mechanics you might see in an RTS.

Lastly, there are special items and abilities that you can use to gain a significant advantage or last-minute save.

The story is cute and fun, managing to slip a clever mix of Japanese and American-styled humor revolving around the adult world amongst the cutesy themes. There are 36 levels, each with a grade you can receive, and 8 multiplayer levels–multiplayer is similar to singleplayer, only the player who holds the waves off first is the victor.

Ninjatown is accessible to both beginners and advanced players, simple and complex, and with 10-15 minute levels is compatible with both short and long-term play sessions. From the DS’s rich buffet, Ninjatown is a light, unique, and flavorful dessert.

ESRB: E. Super cute and simple graphics

Plays like: a tower defense game with unique elements. While simple, there isn’t anything quite like Ninjatown

Pros: Humorous, appeals to a broad range of players while alienating few, unique elements; when failing, you manage to always barely lose, and it leaves you hungry for more

Cons: Some may not like the complete reliance on the stylus, somewhat challenging, very date graphics and noise

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.