Video Game Review: Mark of the Ninja (2012)
“Best stealth game in years”
Nevin P. Jones | Collegio Writer
Recently, stealth genre video games have lacked gameplay that actually focused on stealth. Too often, stealth games have begun to cater to the “Call of Duty” crowd, focusing more on player empowerment than the feeling of vulnerability that a true stealth game should have. It is fitting that the most recent title to be a stealth game is called “Mark of the Ninja,” because it leaves an indelible mark on the genre. Klei Entertainment combines the graphical flourish of its action-oriented “Shank” with the finesse of a stealth platformer to make the best Xbox Live Arcade title of the year and the best stealth game in many years.
While playing “Ninja,” it is important to realize that head-on attacks will result in quick death. The game offers multiple pathways to complete your objective. The trick is finding the one that allows your ninja to bathe in the shadows, because you are deadliest when hidden (which the game shows you with instant feedback). Every sound you make emanates from the source as a bubble. If you slowly stalk your prey, the sound bubbles are minuscule and will not be heard. If you sprint in a metal ventilation shaft, you might as well be jumping and screaming in plain sight with a neon target on your forehead.
The sound bubbles are also a clever tool for theatricality and deception. By using items to make noise or darting in and out of the light, guards can be drawn to investigate, giving you the perfect opportunity to ensnare them. The real fun in the game comes when you are able to terrorize your victims. Stringing up a body or throwing one into a crowd of unsuspecting guards throws a fright into them, causing them to scream and fire wildly.
You slowly gain more items for distractions and more techniques for assassinations. Each of these is unlocked at the perfect time. I never felt that the game was too easy or too hard. When I was dying, the only explanation was that I underutilized my surroundings and items. Upgrades can be purchased, either by completing tasks or gathering points during levels. The best way to earn points is finding collectibles and being sneaky. The upgrades are nice and varied.
There is also a New Game + mode that gives you the ability to carry upgrades to a new playthrough. It is a nice addition and is more difficult, but with all your previous upgrades, the game becomes a little too easy.
“Mark of the Ninja” is the closest thing to a perfect Live Arcade title that has come out this year. It offers variety in its gameplay and impeccable flair with its style. For five or six hours of the best stealth title in years, $15 is a steal.