Co-Optimus - Editorial - Indie-Ana Co-Op and the Ninjas of Dysnomia

Squad 51 vs. the Flying Saucers

  • Couch Co-Op: 2 Players
  • + Co-Op Campaign
Indie-Ana Co-Op and the Ninjas of Dysnomia
Editorial by

Indie-Ana Co-Op and the Ninjas of Dysnomia

Ninjas battle it out Castle Crasher style and a sci-fi shooter with substance

Developer: Belcro
Genre: Action & Adventure
Available On: XBLIG
Co-Op Mode: Local (4 players)
Price: 80 MS Points ($1)
Demo w/ Co-Op Available: Yes 

Castle Crashers was one of the bigger XBLA successes – bringing together beat ‘em up action with RPG elements and co-operative gameplay that’s reminiscent of the days when you’d get together with your buddies at the local pizza joint to pop quarters into the arcade cabinets. Ninja War STOLEN SCROLLS takes those exact same ideas as its inspiration and manages to execute them with only a few missteps.

At the start of the game, you can chose from one of four different ninja warriors that draw power from one of the elements: fire, air, water, and lightning. You are then treated to a brief scene where you witness an evil ninja slays your master and steal his sacred scrolls before you set off to seek vengeance and retribution. Enemies that cross your path are felled with a few rapid taps of the X button, or by summoning your magic using the B button and left thumbstick to direct its fury up, ahead of you, or down along the ground. Your magic points don’t regenerate as you use it, and instead you’ll have to pause from time to time to fill it back up again using the right bumper. As foes fall before your ninja skills, you’ll earn a little bit of experience and at the end of each level all surviving ninjas will earn 100 experience points. All of this goes towards increasing your ninja’s level and making him tougher, faster, and able to deal more damage with both his fists and his magic. Once the level’s cleared, you’ll go to a map screen where you can choose your next destination, though the path is fairly straightforward with only a couple of branches along the way.

Much like Castle Crashers, Ninja War can get rather stagnant in solo play after a few levels and is much better experienced with friends. While there aren’t any more enemies around, or the enemies that are present suddenly get tougher, the game as a whole just feels better when played co-operatively. You and your friends can do a little “divide and conquer” with the enemy groups, or team up to juggle around a particularly tough enemy. The latter becomes more important later in the game once the opposing ninjas start to regularly pull off some ninja moves, like vanishing in a cloud of smoke and leaving behind only a wooden log. This can be very frustrating in single player, but a breeze when playing with friends. The party’s progress as a whole is saved, so if you decide to take a break from the action for a bit, you can always come back to it again with the same character and level advancement.

As I mentioned before, Ninja War manages to execute those very elements that seemed to make Castle Crashers so popular, but it doesn’t do so flawlessly. Perhaps the biggest flaw in Ninja Wars’ otherwise shiny façade is the lack of novelty in its levels and enemies. The first several levels you play through are “forest” levels and you’ll see them for about 7 or 8 of the game’s 20 plus total. Added to a similar backdrop is a similar foreground where the enemies don’t change much, either. Little groups of ninjas and dogs enter stage left on such a regular basis you may wonder if you didn’t accidentally stumble upon some heretofore unknown “dog park for ninjas.” So even though you have proof via the map that you are, in fact, progressing closer to the end goal, it may not feel like it, at least initially. Once you reach the first mini-castle, where you are assaulted by traps and gigantic ogre-type creatures, all of this changes, but it does take a bit of determination to get there. The other flaw that mars Ninja War is a lack of any method to revive fallen comrades. When one of your ninja brethren succumbs to his wounds, he is out for the remainder of the level and doesn’t earn any experience for that level. Fortunately (but also unfortunately), this isn’t likely to happen too often as enemies rarely get tough enough to put your life in any real danger.

They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and based off my play time with Ninja War, the developers over at Behemoth should feel very flattered. While it may not have all the polish as its inspiration, Ninja War STOLEN SCROLLS is a very fun beat ‘em up title that comes in at a good price.

The Co-Op Experience: Team up with up to four friends locally as you hack and slash your way through over 20 levels in order to avenge your master’s death
Ninja War STOLEN SCROLLS is For: Beat ‘em up fans looking for a little more Castle Crashers in their lives