by: Katrina Pawlowski
Mini Ninjas takes familiar ninja lore, and transforms it into a unique gaming experience. See, there's this evil Samurai Warlord that was sealed away for "all eternity". 300 years after "all eternity" began, he's somehow managed to reappear in the forests surrounding a small Ninja Village. He's been kidnapping poor innocent animals and turning them into mini samurai minions before he's even spotted, so he's got quite the mini army amassed. It's up to Hiro and his mini ninja friends to stop this evil Samurai Warlord to free all the enslaved animals in the realm.
As Hiro, you're the only ninja in the current ninja generation that can use the fabled "Kuji Magic." This power makes Hiro the most valuable asset against the Samurai Warlord, granting him the ability to control the elements, forest animals, and enemies. Each character has their own set of skills based on their weapons, and they're all unique. Futo, Suzume, Shun, Kunoichi, and Toro aid Hiro in his struggle.
The samurai minions come from a variety of transformed woodland animals. Small animals, like bunnies, frogs, foxes or raccoons make up the core samurai units. Larger animals, like bears and boars, make up the leaders and tank units, and uppity hyper monkeys make up the irritating and somewhat hard to hit, teleporting enemies. Mini-Ninjas is directed at delicate audiences, you don't actually kill the minions or the animals they're inhabiting, you are simply breaking the spell on the animals releasing the furry creature inside.
Sneaking is an important element in most ninja games, though it may be more optional in Mini Ninjas, it's still recommended. If you're spotted, you're greeted with the battle cry "N-n-n-n-n-n-niiiiiinja!" which summons waves of mini samurai to hack, poke and shoot at your Ninja hero. Sneaking is very straight forward in Mini Ninjas; stick to the tall grass and bushes to stay fully concealed. Alternatively, you can just run in swinging until you hear the satisfying pop of an enemy. It's really up to you how you want to play, there was no right or wrong way to go about it.
You can shoot, slice, pound or poke using your Mini Ninja heroes, but you also get a plethora of items at your disposal. The standards are all there; caltrops for laying traps, throwing stars for...throwing, and a variety of little bombs to catch your enemies off guard. You can throw a smoke bomb to conceal your escape or assault, or a pepper bomb to disorient your foes. The pepper bomb isn't debilitating like mace, this is family friendly afterall. Instead the samurai affected will simply begin sneezing uncontrollably until the effects wear off.
Mini Ninjas is a refreshing course in what makes games fun. The fighting mechanics were very straightforward yet worked very well, sneaking accompanied by item throwing or outright attacking, rescue missions, unique characters...the list goes on. As a 15 hour game I was surprised that I never once felt frustrated or bored by the story or gameplay. Overall, if I had any one thing to say about Mini Ninjas it's this: It's simply fun.