Hitman: Bloodmoney is one of the best games of recent years, so the last thing you might expect from the makers of that hyperviolent and bloodthirsty murder simulator would be a dimple cute tale of tiny ninjas meting out PG-rated punishment on a quest to save their green and idyllic land. Wait, ninjas? I’m in, where’s the demo?
I came away feeling that it’s unfair to dismiss Mini Ninjas as the basic kids’ game you might expect. Beneath the surface there lurks the potential for a surprising level of complexity.
You control a tiny and adorable troupe of ninjas on a pleasant romp through a technicolour world of friendly animals and blundering enemy samurai. Initially it’s blindingly easy. Any fight can be won by simply mashing the attack button. Adorably, vanquished enemy ninjas are turned into animals which hop innocently away into the evergreen undergrowth. It’s that kind of game: innocent, charming and perfect for younger gamers.
You can switch between any member of your team of ninjas, only three of which were available in the demo. Each ninja possesses different skills. Your default hero can hide in the grass and use his hat as a boat in watery areas, another ninja is a huge bald ox-like hero with a giant hammer, perfect for taking out more imposing enemies. Your third option is a lithe female assassin, complete with tiny, tiny knives. Cute.
Your team of ninjas has access to a variety of spells and abilities which range from the ability to throw shurikens to summoning thunderclouds to smite your foes. There’s room in the inventory for many more such spells and items, and not all of them are tied to combat.
You can possess animals to sneak past enemies, or you can use your rod to do a spot of fishing and replenish your supply of sushi. Add to this some collection quests, ninja platforming and special attacks and I’m left reminded, not unfavourably, of Nintendo’s classic adventuring series Zelda.
It’s overly easy in the early stages shown in the demo, but there’s more here than I was expecting to find. Even if it doesn’t end up providing a deep enough experience to satisfy the adult gamer, it could prove a great commercial success. Y’know, for kids.