Review: Mark of the Ninja

As a real life ninja, I found this ninja simulation to be woeful at portraying the realities of the Way of the Ninja. This is mainly due to two central design decisions. And you almost can’t blame the game itself, because these come as standard in every other modern game.

Checkpoints
and
Achievements

Why do we become ninjas and stick to this path we have chosen? You will find many answers to this question, but a common thread is the adrenaline we get from putting ourselves in tense, risky, and frightening situations. When I am out on a raid, I’m often holding my breath as I weigh up my options, each decision momentous because of what I could gain or lose by the next action. There is no room to put a foot wrong, not even once.

In Mark of the Ninja, however, missions are segmented into many many checkpoints. If you make a mistake you can just restart at the most recent, never losing more than a couple of minutes work. No situation is scary in MOTN. No decision momentous.

When you throw in achievements into the mix, the game becomes more about experimentation and playing around with mechanics, rather than true stealth and survival. I’m not talking about Steam achievements, but in-game achievements, designed into the core of the game. You will get little sub missions, like ‘complete this level without destroying lights’, which add a gamey element and its reward. You are therefore encouraged to fool around, as opposed to becoming immersed. And all the more so because there’s a checkpoint 2 minutes back, so you have nothing to lose by trying something fun.

This is all wrong. Real ninjas like me are always focused on the mission at hand. We become truly immersed. We enter the zone. We do not entertain ourselves by seeing how many funny ways we can scare a dude.

My ninja days are behind me, so I look for the right ninja simulation to recapture those days of adrenaline, tension, risk, fear, and finally triumph. Where is the triumph in knowing every mistake was rewound, erased out of the game’s memory? My search goes on.

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