Mark of the Ninja: Stealthy Ninja Action!
Stealth games can be tricky business. If you aren't careful, you end up with a game like Dark: full of good ideas, but ultimately doomed to mediocrity by its shortcomings. On the other hand, when things go right, you get Mark of the Ninja, a game by developer Klei Entertainment (Don't Starve, Torchlight 2).
An evil corporation run by a villainous mastermind has attacked your ninja clan. You have been chosen to receive a mystical tattoo that grants you powers beyond the skills of normal ninja. Unfortunately, the tattoo will drive you insane over time. It is your mission to take revenge for your clan before the tattoo makes you lose your mind.
Mark of the Ninja is an absolutely beautiful game. Even in this age of amazing computer generated graphics, nothing beats a beautifully drawn 2D game. The animations are fantastic as well. Movement, jumping, and fighting animations are incredibly smooth.
The sound design is quite good as well. The music is very much the definition of ambient background music. It's unlikely you will ever actively be listening to the soundtrack during the game, but it does a very good job of filling the silence while not drowning out the other sound effects.
The level design is creative and interesting. Most of the time you will be traversing rooftops or office buildings. The enemy placement clearly has thought behind it and each situation has a few different ways you can avoid or stealth kill the guards.
Mark of the Ninja is a 2D stealth game through and through. As a master ninja, you will be sneaking through each level, using your ninja skills to climb walls, sneak through air ducts, avoid laser trip wires, and traverse other obstacles. Levels are littered with guards on patrol and security systems that you must either avoid or eliminate.
In order to remain stealthy, you will have to understand how light and sound work in Mark of the Ninja. In the shadows, you are invisible to guards, but if you step into the light, it is very easy for guards to see you, even from a long distance. Sound is represented by circular waves that emanate radially from the source of the sound. For example, if you sprint, each of your footsteps will create large circles of sound. If those circles overlap with a guard, they will hear the noise and come to investigate.
Stealth is not your only tool for dealing with the guards. You are armed with various ninja tools to help you accomplish your mission. You have a sword you can use to kill guards (though you do get less points for killing guards than sneaking past them). You are also armed with limited-use tools like kunai, smoke bombs, and noise makers. These extra tools are limited, but they can be used to manipulate the environment as you need. For example, you can use a kunai to destroy the fuse box powering a laser trip wire or a noise maker to distract a guard.
Enemy types are well varied, including burly guards with flares and riot shields, snipers, and dogs that can sniff you out, even if they can't see you.
At the end of each level you will be rewarded with honor points based on how well you did. You can spend these points on upgrades to yourself, upgrades to your weapons, or new stealth kills or abilities.
Mark of the Ninja is a well made stealth game with simple, but well fleshed out mechanics. The difficulty is not so high that someone new to stealth games would be lost, but can be raised for those of us who really want a challenge. There is also a new game plus for those who really want to test their ninja skills. Enemy types are well varied, including burly guards with flares and riot shields, snipers, and dogs that can sniff you out, even if they can't see you.
I didn't run into too many problems with the game. There were occasionally times where I had trouble dropping over a ledge and grabbing the wall because there was a floor vent above my head. Each time I would try to drop down, I would jump up out of the vent instead, but this is a minor issue. It only happened twice through the whole game.
Mark of the Ninja is available on Steam for PC and on Xbox 360.