In the world of Yurik Nestoly, characters are small, and they attack to the right. To both these ends, Ninja is probably the most distinctively Nestoly game. It's the rare Game-Maker game focused solely on action, as the player is expected to push through a flood of enemies by brute force alone.
The game is very stylish, with its small-as-possible, pixel-perfect people and its dainty dollhouse world. As in Irem's Kung-Fu Master or any number of walk-and-punch games, the enemies are largely cannon fodder; strike them once, and they dramatically fly off the screen at an angle. With such small characters occupying such a small portion of the screen, the effect here is even more dramatic than elsewhere -- adding to the game's charm and lending visceral significance to its microscopic scale.
As in other Nestoly games, the character here is offered a wide range of attacks. The simpler attacks are the most interesting and rewarding; the very powerful ones, like the laser, eliminate what small thought the game might elicit and turn its action into a mere forward charge. You could just not use it, but it's there.
Curiously, the game's most rewarding attack is a hidden pick-up. Search through the air ducts toward the end of level one, and you find a shuriken. Had this been available from the start, and the controls been limited to sword and shuriken, the game might have been able to better craft an experience around the player's capabilities -- which in turn might have asked the player to more selectively employ those capabilities in order to succeed.
Once you pick up the shuriken, the game itself picks up -- at least in principle. We move on to the cityscape of level two, which is just gorgeous and bursting with potential. Here the player can wander the streets or leap from rooftop to rooftop, en route to an ultimate showdown atop a bullet train. In practice, things don't quite add up. The clipping on the buildings is a little weird, with parts that look solid allowing the player to fall through and parts that look clear being fully solid. This immediately dampens the dual path idea, which as it turns out the level does not put much effort into exploring anyway. What seems like an opportunity for multiple paths or strategic placement turns out to be little more than decoration upon a single plane of design.
Let's talk about that single plane. As in other Nestoly games (Stickman!!! Die, Twister, argh!), Ninja is a very flat thing. You run to the right, and plow through everything in your way. Level one employs something of a pagoda design, where when the level wraps around it drops the player down a level to keep going on a second plane, then a third. There are a few complications here that conspire to make Ninja less effective than it might be, even given the same materials.
The character, you will remember, is basically designed to run and attack to the right. It's possible to attack left, but this is an afterthought; the animations don't account for it. Were all of the game's momentum in one direction (as in Dead Awakening), this could work fine. Here, though, when the map drops down a level, it doesn't just keep going to the right; it starts to wrap around to the left. This means on every other level, our character basically runs backwards, shooting or slashing to the right with attacks materializing behind him. It also means, for the player, a sense of reverse progress. Even though we're clearly in a different space from before, it feels like we're retracing our steps.
More tangibly, though, is the game's employment of enemies, and the relationship that it fosters between the player and that opposition. There is no strategy to speak of; though all well-drawn and often imaginative, the enemies all exist on the same horizontal plane as the character. There is no real differentiation in their behavior; they either just sit there, progress steadily to the left, or move on arbitrary repeating patterns. As such, there is no reason for the player to differentiate in response, or really to do more than mash the buttons while running forward. The sprites are small and numerous, so at times they may overwhelm the player -- but all the player needs to do is just not be where the monsters are, then attack any that approach.
Some more deliberate monster placement, tied in with more deliberate level design, might make more of the player's input -- and as suggested earlier, limiting the weapon set might make it easier to build in this strategy. It's a little frustrating, as Ninja looks and feels like it should be a great little game, but it doesn't actively do much to draw in and engage the player. Given the same resources, Ninja easily could present a fun, fast-paced arcade action game. It's so nearly there. In the end it just doesn't quite commit.
- Spacebar: Slash
- A: Fire purple beam
- ,/.: Shadow jump-kick left/right
- M: Throw shuriken (with item)
- `: Upward slash (with item)
- P/D: Pick up/Drop Items
On numerical keypad:
- 7/8/9: Jump left/up/right
- 4/6: Run left/right
- 1/2/3: Creep left/down/right
Designed by Yurik Nestoly.
- Ninja is a side scroller game where you control a ninja who fights his way through a building.
This game is not known to have been distributed in any form, prior to its addition to the Archive.
After an earlier wave of rediscoveries, on July 13 2011 Alan Caudel provided another archive of previously missing Game-Maker material, including the following:
- Ninja (93 kB)