Ninjin: Clash of Carrots Review
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher/Developer: Modus Games/Pocket Trap
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Ninjin, the ninja rabbit (and/or Akai, the ninja fox) are out to thwart the attacks of the evil Shogun Moe, who has stolen their hometown's carrot supply. Without their stocks, the people of the village will surely perish in the cold winter months. The game plays out as you frantically chase down the enemies who are on the run back to their headquarters with the carrot hoard. During their escape, all manner of enemies are thrown at our heroes. Take them down, collect the carrots to purchase more powerful swords and shiruken, and defeat the evil Shogun to save the town.
Playing like a cross between a Final Fight beat-em-up and a classic Galaga-style space shooter, Ninjin constantly runs forward, catching up with the enemy. They have specialized attack patterns that you must figure out to efficiently take them down. You can change between several types of weapons with different attack styles and powers: small knife style swords cut quickly but are short range, or large swords or spears may have the reach but have a long recharge. Most of your attacks go forward, and sometimes the strategy is sneaking behind the enemy to get a good hit in. Different shiruken may bounce or come back to you, so the game is a frantic dash of dodging enemy attacks, lining up your own with the proper loadout, and efficiently taking out enemies while protecting your own life bar. The fun is finding out how to use enemies against themselves, like making robotic enemies explode near difficult attackers, or smacking shot-put like projectiles right back at who threw them.
Ninjin is presented wonderfully in a high-definition 8-bit style. Graphics are crisp and clean but very low-fi, and is very aesthetically neat. The storyline is full of funny and occasional fourth wall breaking humor. Levels can be easier based on the loadout you select, and you can go back and play earlier levels if you need to earn more carrot currency to buy the right weapon. With over 150 in-game weapons, you are bound to spend a lot of time tweaking to find the fastest way through a level to earn that top ranking.
Multiplayer can be online or local, and the Nintendo Switch version I got to review supports single Joy-Con play. It changes the control scheme a bit: on a full set of controllers throwing weapons are used by tilting the R stick in the direction you want to throw for an instant chuck, while single Joy-Con requires you to tilt your move stick in the proper direction and hit a button. It slightly changes the flow of the game but is perfectly fine for a quick drop-in gaming session.
The multiplayer is very fun, but I question a couple pieces of the mechanics. When testing it out, I found that each weapon or power up can only be used by one character, so you can't both use what you find to be your "best weapon." The levels don't change in multiplayer, so a sidekick can help you get through the harder levels. Strangely, it's Game Over if one of the two characters die. Ninjin isn't so much a game for someone to take an inexperienced gamer through. If they do poorly and die, you both die. However, if you are good enough, the extra "meat shield" might help you through a few levels even if it's a empty controller! I was able to turn on two-player and let the spare character run. I'd just take down enemies, then swat them off the other character when they focused on them. Probably wouldn't work on the bigger boss sections, as they take far more hits to down and could likely kill the one character, ending the game. NOTE: As a reviewer with a very small user base at this time, I never was able to find an online partner, so all of my multiplayer time was couch co-op, where I feel it would be best (regardless of the option, which is still appreciated).
Ninjin is a fun little game that has plenty of customization options. It can get frustrating to do a five to ten minute battle to get to a boss that takes you down only to have to do the entire level again, but once you get the right loadout you can slice through like a knife through butter. The game is value priced and easily worth the price of admission.
-Arcade style run'n'gun gameplay
-Cute graphics, amusing story
-Enemy types are introduced to you in a logical way and layered on to add challenge gradually
-Frustrating to die at the tail end of a level and have to start again
-Most attacks are forward, and it can get frustrating to have to circle around
-One death in multiplayer is the end
Special thanks to Pocket Trap and Modus Games for providing a Switch code for review!