It may not have lit up the charts, but Mini Ninjas was an enjoyable little adventure that stood out from the crowd thanks to its cutesy but highly likeable art design.
The gameplay was solid rather than spectacular, but with its impressive core mechanics married expertly to its utterly gorgeous visuals, it stands as one of those hidden gems that perhaps didn’t get the attention that it deserved upon release. Whether Mini Ninja Adventures is deserving of the success not afforded to its predecessor is up for debate, but despite a few Kinect-based hiccups, it proves yet another solid entry in the fledgling Mini Ninjas franchise.
Rather than the classic adventuring of the original, Side-Kick has wisely decided to build an experience around the Kinect hardware rather than attempting to force Kinect mechanics into a framework ill-fitting of the technology. As I said, it’s not without faults, but those with the patience to deal with the technical deficiencies will find one of XBLA’s finest Kinect efforts to date.
Taking on the role of Hiro (the lead Ninja of the original release), you are tasked with shooting down wave after wave of increasingly complex enemies. From basic cannon fodder to magically endowed demons, the varied list of foes that you will face over the 3 to 4 hour running time do a great job of keeping you on your toes throughout.
What really keeps things ticking along however, is the collection of weapons available and the carefully paced upgrades and abilities that are unlocked as you progress. Starting off with a basic sword which can be used for close combat, you soon unlock ninja stars for mid-range attacks and eventually a bow and arrow for long distant combat. With such a simple concept (think Root Beer Tapper with ninjas), it’s the smart design choices and carefully constructed enemy waves that will keep you coming back time and time again.
Despite such a carefully crafted experience, like pretty much every other Kinect game out there, Mini Ninja Adventures does fall foul of inconsistencies with the Kinect calibration. While basic sword and throwing star attacks are mostly fine, the bow and arrow proves a much more temperamental form of offence. This is fine for many of the earlier stages in which you have the time to readjust, but when the challenge begins to ramp up later in the game, these technical inconsistencies can and will cost you your life.
Weapon upgrades, stun kicks and unlockable magic and ninja attacks in which your mini ninja buddies briefly jump aboard to lend a helping hand (or sword), do make the challenge manageable, but like always, these issues will prove extremely frustrating to many, and despite the relative success of the concept, stands at yet another reminder that Kinect is still an inherently flawed technology.
Despite its handfull of technical deficiencies, Mini Ninjas Adventures, thanks to its strong core concept, utterly gorgeous visuals and underlying charm, overcomes its problems to stand proud as one of the finest Kinect games to date. It’s not going to win over those who have already dismissed Kinect as a cynical attempt to attract the casual crowd, but for owners looking for a highly enjoyable slice of Kinect-based combat, Mini Ninjas Adventures should fit the bill.
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