It seems that we have adventured into a time where pixel-graphics are dominating game releases these days. I continue to see weekly releases of 2D pixelated titles litter the game stores but they definitely have been a mixed bag of good and bad. Ninjin: Clash of Carrots can be categorized as a good but not great game that surprised me by coming out of nowhere.
Ninjin is a sideways auto-scrolling beat-em-up (that is a mouthful) that pleases both aesthetically and mechanically. From the developer Pocket Trap, Ninjin is not a brand new entry because of a mobile game released by the same developer from the same series. This game is fast and fun with a great learning curve and gives you the ability to upgrade specific elements of your arsenal to tighten the gameplay to your specific play style.
You play as a ninja in the body of a rabbit or a fox. You traverse a feudal Japan chasing an enemy named Shogun Moe who has stolen carrots that do not belong to him. Carrots act as the currency of the game so you can see why they are so important. The story progresses as you face off against side bosses until you finally have your showdown with Shogun himself.
The world map acts as your hub where you can select levels that are located in different environments. Areas can be covered with trees, sand, snow and even busy urban housing. Each level presents you with waves of enemies, which you must defeat in hack-and-slash style gameplay. Usually when you reach the last wave you will face off against a mini boss but that is not always the case where your objective could be just to defeat a few waves of enemies and the level is complete.
It was refreshing to see the enemy variation all throughout the game even up to the last few encounters. The introduction of enemies was brought to the forefront and the humour of the text and dialogue created a great light-hearted atmosphere. Even though some enemies were overly frustrating at times I am glad that they made you switch up your strategy mid-game to deal with specific situations. Some levels would have you dying constantly only to find out you needed to be using specific projectiles or even a different weapon to dispose of the enemies. This kept the game fresh the whole way through.
Speaking of weapons, you have many options when it comes to choosing your loadout for each level. You spend your currency (carrots), which you collect by killing enemies, on new weapons and power-ups. Your main point of attack is your melee weapon, which can be as simple as a knife to as complex as a huge heavy weapon. Each type of weapon (and there are close to 150 different weapons) has their advantages and disadvantages depending on what you are looking for. If you like fast but close combat then you will go for a knife or a standard weapon. If you like slow but ranged combat you will go for a spear or a heavy weapon. All of these weapons have their own stats on power, critical and how much stamina they use. You also have a projectile you can use and once again this addition will depend on your play style. You can equip boomerang-style projectiles that go through enemies and return to you all while hitting anything in between. You can even equip throwing knives or big bombs that explode like mines on the ground. Each projectile uses stamina and has a different power stat. These weapon variations ensure you play the way you like to play.
You also have power-ups to buy and equip that will allow you to upgrade your health, mana, speed and, of course, your special ability. Yes, there is a special ability slot that can equip different special attacks. Some are definitely better than others but building up your special meter is important when you are being overwhelmed and want a good amount of carrots out of a level.
Additionally, there is the ability to swap masks on your character by spending unique currency collected in the levels. The game makes a joke of this aesthetic by making you buy the masks from a shady vendor at night but this is all part of the humour of the game.
One of the best features of this game is the ability to play it coop either online or with a friend on the couch. Ninjin is so much more fun when you can have a buddy hacking and slashing their way through levels with you. Isn’t every game better that way?
All in all, Ninjin: Clash of Carrots was a surprisingly decent title. I feel a lot of people will turn this game down because of the lack of interest but I think it had some very polished elements to it. I love the aesthetic and the gameplay was fun and frantic. It didn’t become too stale and the difficulty curve was perfectly executed as the game progressed. The basic point I am trying to make here is that is was fun and that is what truly counts at the end of the day.