Save The Ninja Clan, from here on out referred to as ‘STNJ’ is a 2D action platformer in a deliberately retro style. It has been out for a while on PC via Steam but is now here for us console players. The story of the game is basic, intentionally so, and is merely a tool to set up the gameplay. An evil ninja kidnapped your friends. You must collect scrolls in order to find your friends and save them.
You play as different ninjas as the journey progresses, with each ninja having a different ability: Green ninja has a double jump, Purple Ninja has a sprint, and the Grey Ninja has a dash (with temporary invincibility). (Alternate ‘Story’: You can annoy the ‘Game Manager’ by finding secrets/’bugs’ in the game. Eventually he will get tired of you breaking the current level and send you off to the next one, but it’s great fun to intentionally play the game in the ‘wrong’ way.)
There are 3 main aims to the game: Firstly, speed-run the level to get the best time possible, which requires creative use of all 3 ninja types in order to get the best times. Secondly, explore the level to collect the collectibles, which unlock weapons/trophies. Thirdly, find the ‘bugs’ in the level and play the game in a way that the ‘manager’ doesn’t like, which also unlocks trophies and hidden areas.
The gameplay is standard 2D ‘mario’ style, although I found it more similar to recent retro releases like Super Meat Boy. It’s full of difficult platforming sections, and you will die (a lot), but nothing ever seems impossible. I’m not usually a fan of super-difficult platformers, but enjoyed trying to complete these levels. For example, in the video below, you can briefly see at the start that this was my 12th attempt to beat the level. Nevertheless, with each attempt it feels possible to complete the level once you’ve seen a path through it.
The graphics are simple, and reminded me of old C64 games, but this is obviously targeted at older gamers who think of those times as gaming gold. The music accompanying the game adds to that effect with MIDI sounding tunes and sound effects.
The overall package feels like a dozen other indie platformers on current-gen consoles. However, this one feels like it has a bit more humour and heart. It’s genuinely fun when others can feel frustrating. It’s accessible to platforming amateurs whilst also providing a different challenge, through speed running, for more seasoned players.
Overall, if you have a tiny interest in platformers, then this is definitely one to purchase. It has challenge without controller-crushing frustration. It has charm, humour, destruction, and death – lots of death – but dying is part of the game. It’s expected. You even get trophies for it. It rewards speed, but also rewards exploration and patience. The controls are simple, but tight and require practice.
8 out of 10
This review was for the PS4 version, but it’s also available on Steam PC and Xbox One.