June 11, 2012

E3 2012 – Hands On with Mark of the Ninja

Filed under: Features — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 12:56 pm

Mark of the Ninja E3 2012
Few years slip by in the gaming industry without a healthy dose of Ninja themed releases, offering familiar means to slice through enemies, run up walls, and embed a few shuriken in the skulls of adversaries. But for those gamers looking to romance the more stealthy elements of the ninja lifestyle, there’s rarely much to chew on aside from minor moments, most recently illustrated by Ninja Gaiden 3, which introduced stealth kills only to promptly drop the feature.

If this depresses you, one hot minute with Klei Entertainment’s Mark of the Ninja should put the jelly back in your donut with an experience built entirely on emphasizing the stealth skills of the silent ninja.

Mark of the Ninja E3 2012
If by chance you’ve cancelled your subscription to Ninja Gaming Monthly, Mark of the Ninja is a new side-scrolling title in development by Klei Entertainment, most recently known for the side-scrolling Shank series. The studio’s E3 demo offered up the challenge of sneaking through darkened environments to free prisoners – all while armed guards broke the night with searchlights, eager to cut the rescue short.

Every screen presented stealth puzzles, leaving the player to look for aids in the environments that offered a chance to get the drop on guards. Whenever the player can sneak up behind a guard, an execution move can be issued by pressing a button and a direction for the sword slice, which offers up a dose of gruesome yet cartoonish sword play as said guards have their organs creatively removed.

Gaining this advantage requires close attention to each screen, looking for statues and darkened doorways your ninja can use to hide while guards pass by, grapple points that allow a chance to hang overhead for a drop down kill, and underground passageways that offer the chance to crawl right up behind them. The player can even drag the recently deceased into the darkness to prevent other guards from noticing the disturbance.

Mark of the Ninja E3 2012
Distractions can be created by striking objects with daggers to create sound, or smashing lights to cause confusion and keep the player cloaked in protective shadows. Causing such disruptions causes guards to search more intently, shining their light around the screen and making it more likely the player will be spotted however. If the player is spotted, the battle isn’t necessarily lost – I did melee myself out of one such instance, but I also watched a lot of players die for acting too rashly when more than one guard was on patrol.

There’s a great deal of visual seduction in the simple elegance of objects standing out in the darkened environments and the animation of movement – it feels quick and slick moving up walls and running your sword through enemies. I particular enjoyed picking targets for daggers, and watching a gong sway as it sounded with the hit and guards immediately reacted to the action. There entire affair is fluid enough to convince me that I was directing a ninja cartoon.

There’s certainly still a lot I don’t know about the title of course, particularly how Klei plans to raise the stakes throughout the game to stave off the repetitive exhaustion that would come from simply employing these same tricks over and over again. I suppose in that sense, the demo felt so polished and clever that I’m left stumped as to where it could possibly go from there, but I’ll certainly be watching intently for more as the title works toward its Xbox LIVE Arcade exclusive release.

1 Comment »

  1. Game looks great. Too bad it’s a XBLA exclusive…

    Comment by EdEN — June 11, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

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