Genre: Action Strategy
Publisher: SouthPeak Games
Developer: Venan Entertainment/Cashmere Productions
Release Date: October 28, 2008
Ninja! Who doesn't love ninja! They are, after all, masters of flipping out and hugging people. And that makes them awesome.
Former video game journalist-turned-game-designer Shawn Smith has his own toy design studio, and now he has his own game based upon its style. Lovable, adorable and a little bit crazy is the name of the game at Shawnimals, and Ninjatown embodies all of that while putting fun design and game mechanics on top. This is the part where his journalist background comes in handy — after all, what better way to design a game that works than to have had extensive experience critiquing games that don't? (Heck, that means there's hope for me.)
Ninjatown can crudely be described as "My First RTS," with a smattering of tower-defense play style built in. Players can build huts that manufacture adorable little ninja of all types, each with their own special powers. The Anti-Ninja dresses in bright orange and is good for ranged attacks. The Wee Ninjas, well-rounded melee folks, subdue foes with moves like the Stealth Hug and Sneak Snuggle. Yes, they are exactly what they sound like. Things only get crazier when Business Ninjas and Zombie Ninjas, among others, come under your command.
All of these ninja band together to defend their villages, towns and cities from Mr. Demon and his army, all bent on destruction because ... well, that gets revealed over the course of the game. Just rest assured that it's not good. Watching over the Ninja Villages at all times is Ol' Master Ninja, who you can call down if things get too intense to unleash CO Powers such as "Get off My Lawn." A few blows into the DS microphone, and incredible gusts of wind even the odds.
Between its intuitive stylus controls, upgradeable ninja skills and wacky powers, playing Ninjatown on the E3 show floor proved addictive once the game system was learned, and the cute, non-intimidating art style helps to keep people hooked. The iconic style of Shawnimals calls forth memories of the days when video games had cheerful "mascots" rather than angst-filled protagonists. It's bright, it's refreshing, and furthermore, it's a stark thematic contrast from 99 percent of RTS games. Simply put, it contains Blue Skies.
Ninjatown is set to release around the time of the holiday shopping season, and as bright and gaudy as it is, it may well have a chance to withstand the holiday onslaught on sheer visual presence alone. The fact that there's a solid game in here doesn't hurt its chances in the slightest.
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