Classic Stealth With A 2D Twist - Mark of the Ninja - Xbox 360 - www.GameInformer.com
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Mark of the Ninja

Classic Stealth With A 2D Twist

Mark of the Ninja may be an indie-developed downloadable game, but there’s nothing small about its scope or ambition. This deep and highly replayable title embraces its roots in the stealth genre, but excels in a 2D space. Klei Entertainment nails the fun of sneaking around by giving players frequent choices about where to go and how to proceed, turning every confrontation into a puzzle that needs to be solved, and making the payoff for killing (or not killing) irresistible. 

You are a ninja, and you have accepted the Mark. The toxic tattoo will eventually drive you mad, but it also imparts superhuman powers with which to confront your clan’s enemies. When your task is done, you have sworn to end your own life before you lose touch with reality. Klei wrings a lot of nuance and twists out of this setup, and I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed the narrative arc. Storytelling is further aided by the gorgeous visual style, which accentuates your brutal attacks from the shadows.  

Mark of the Ninja embraces deliberate pacing by eschewing the recent trend of bringing action into every stealth game. The game rewards patience and punishes lack of observation with a nearly certain checkpoint restart (which are thankfully never far back). Sound and light are not your friends. Appear in a lit area within view of a guard, and you’re spotted. Every sound in the game produces a circle that radiates from its source, and anyone within the circle is alerted. These two factors, and your ability to control both of them, result in hours of varied encounters and dramatic escapes. Blow out a light with a dart to distract one guard, stealth kill a second foe before he can shout for help, and lure a third to his death in the spike trap you just silently set in his path. Moving on gets progressively more complicated, and the final levels serve up labyrinths of traps, bad guys, and navigation challenges. 

Every action, from the rewarding stealth kills to punishing you for setting off an alarm, results in an adjustment to your score. This in turn leads to increased upgrade points to improve your character. The allure of upgrades makes you strive for perfection in every level; don’t be surprised if you restart checkpoints just to try to nail that one kill better the second time around. In addition, Mark of the Ninja offers ample reason to replay; you get one set of rewards for being a murderous force of vengeance, but a mutually exclusive reward for being the shadow that kills no one and never alerts anyone. Challenge rooms, unlockable outfits, and new equipment all feed the drive to play better. A fun new game plus challenge awaits the most hardcore ninjas. 

Tense, strategic, and hard to put down, Mark of the Ninja is one of the welcome surprises of the year. If you miss the heyday of pure stealth-focused games, or you never played a great stealth game and wonder what all the fuss is about, Klei Entertainment just snuck out of nowhere to offer you a weekend’s worth of fun. 

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User Reviews:

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  • 9.75
    Mark of the Ninja is the ultimate ninja fantasy. From the moment that you take control, you are given the power and tools to be the master of your environment. As you quietly move from shadow to shadow making choices for the oblivious guards that surround you, the power over life and death are in your...
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  • 7.25
    Mark of the Ninja , a game from the creators of Shank and Don't Starve , brought to the PC by Microsoft (instead of Halo 3 , because "reasons" obviously), is a peculiar game to say the least. It wants you to take it seriously as a both a stealth game and as a homage to old school ninja...
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  • 9.00
    In the past I haven’t been a huge fan of stealth games. However, the stealth mechanics that have been incorporated into the games unique shadow and light graphics make for a visually stunning 2D side scroller. Through a variety of levels and layouts players have the ability to utilize multiple...
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  • 9.50
    True stealth games are a dying breed. The latest Splinter Cell was action-heavy, the new Hitman seems to punish players who try to diffuse a situation by picking off targets one by one, and even Dishonored has some moments where you are encouraged to use weapons like grenades or the flintlock pistol...
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  • 9.75
    You are the silent shadow on the prowl. Kill the lights, distract the guards, kill one and terrorize the other. A simple approach found in other stealth genre games, however it surely is not the only one. What Mark of the Ninja does that most games have not, is provide an excellent example of choice...
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  • 9.50
    In honor of the game's Steam release, here is a quick video review of Mark Of The Ninja. Enjoy.
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