A review I wrote of the video game 1-bit Ninja for the website www.square-go.com
One of the great successes of the iPhone App store when it comes to video games is that any art design is on the table. For a little while there during the PlayStation/PlayStation 2 era it looked like 3D was the only way to go. Downloadable games have enabled game designers to experiment with all kinds of different styles, from hand drawn pencils to eighties style pixel art and even, with 1-bit Ninja, the original Nintendo Game Boy.
1-bit Ninja is a platform game in the style of Canabalt; your character runs from left to right jumping over obstacles and on enemies to kill them. This game mixes things up by giving you control of when you run; press the lower left hand part of the screen and you run, let go to stop. You jump by touching the lower right hand half of the screen.
1-bit Ninja then takes things a little further; the game is presented as a 2D platformer with a lovely art style that invokes early Game Boy games; the world of the game is in the same kind of green-ey yellow of the Game Boy with everything made up of nice chunky pixels. What makes it interesting is when you touch the top half of the screen and realise that you can move the camera around and suddenly everything is in 3D. This then opens up secret areas within the levels as what you thought was a block stopping you from going one way is actually set back into the level so you can walk past it. It’s pretty mind-bending in places and looks great with the characters in the game keeping their 2D flatness whilst the level has the 3D depth.
The problem is this; the art style is the best bit of the game. What makes Canabalt and games of that ilk so good is their simplicity, you have one button to jump and that’s it. 1-bit Ninja gives you control over your motion but only in one direction which takes a while to wrap your head around. At least it did for this reviewer who kept instinctively trying to push the screen to move in the other direction which meant that a lot of ledges were fallen off and enemies walked into. This may not be the case for everyone, you may pick it up easily and no one else may notice this. But these issues, coupled with moving the 3D perspective, made things a little bit too complex especially when the tight time limits for the levels are taken into account.
The game is obviously made to be replayed thanks to all the leader boards for every level and Open Feint support. There are five coins to find in each level that open up a permanent 3D view and an option to play the game with red/blue 3D glasses if you really really wanted to.
The controls stop the replaying from being fun. It feels like a game that is nearly there and with a couple of different design choices could have been something really special. As it stands, 1-bit Ninja is enjoyable but nothing more.
Four stars out of five