When you think of developer IO Interactive, you think of Hitman. You don’t think of super cute cel-shaded cartoon kid ninjas. Perhaps that will change though this September, when Mini Ninjas, which features super cute cel-shaded kid ninjas, is released.
It really couldn’t be more different. Hitman is a violent and realistic game in which you play an assassin. Mini Ninjas looks like a Cartoon Network show. And there’s definitely no blood. Clearly, IO fancied a change.
Still, here it is. There’s a demo out on Xbox LIVE and PC tomorrow and on PSN on Thursday, but we had the opportunity to get some hands on with a preview build to see if the game’s shaping up to be worth your attention.
Mini Ninja’s plot is classic cartoon fare. An Evil Samurai Warlord has returned to wreak havoc on the world, turning innocent little animals into demon samurai warriors. To do this he’s had to use forbidden Kuji magic, upsetting the balance of nature and causing widespread storms. The Ninja Master notices this disturbance and sends his ninjas off to solve the mystery. None return. Desperate, he sends his last few remaining ninjas left off in a desperate attempt to find out what’s going on. This is where you, and little Hiro, Futo and Suzume come in.
Hiro is your basic sword-wielding all rounder. He’s only 11 but is incredibly skilful with Kuji magic, rivalled only by the Evil Samurai Master himself. He’s got exploration-based spells, including “Detect Kuji Shrine”, which sends spirits scurrying off to lead him to… you guessed it, Kuji Shrines, where new spells are learned; and “Spirit Form”, which allows him to jump into the body of animals and control them; and offensive spells, including Fireball and Lightning, both aimed with a targeting reticule.
12-year-old Futo is the tank – a great big hulk of a ninja. He’s slower than the others but packs a meaner punch. He also carries a hammer, which helps him dish out damage to multiple enemies at once. Futo’s your best bet when you go up against the larger enemy samurai – he can stun them with his hammer, then, via a quick time event, leap on their backs for a powerful blow.
Last but not least is the girl of the group Suzume, aged 13. She’s super fast but weak, as are most girls in games. Her weapon is a flute, which doubles as a stick, but she mixes things up with kicks just for good measure. Mini Ninjas lets you change character at will (by pressing LB on the Xbox 360 version then selecting the ninja from a radial menu), so you’re able to quickly change up who you want to lead the charge and adapt to the enemies you’re facing. And, if you’re thinking three Mini Ninjas aren’t enough, given our preview build’s got empty spaces in the character radial menu, we suspect more playable ninjas will be unlocked as you work through the game.