Mini Ninjas Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC | DS
Mini Ninjas box art
System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Magic Pockets 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Eidos Int. 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Sep. 8, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

Lastly, though both Futo and Suzume offer some minor differences in playability, you'll rarely find cause to call upon them. Hiro is the only one who can utilize jutsus or his rice hat (which allows him to quickly raft through rivers and such), and it's just much more convenient all around to keep him in the driver's seat throughout most the adventure.

Mini Ninjas screenshot

On the flipside to adventuring, you'll occasionally be called upon to enter the spirit world. These portions of Mini Ninjas are mostly made up of puzzles that take place in 2D, sumi-e (ink and wash painting) environments. The spirit world isn't just pretty to look at; these little bits of gameplay make up what are undoubtedly the most elegant and enjoyable portions of the entire game.

Each visit to the spirit world is only a minute or two long, but the puzzles come as a breath of fresh air that almost makes trudging through the adventure worth it. You'll usually be required to use your ink brush to create structures on the canvas; you'll then use a knife to reveal hidden elements within the painting - the goal being to see your ninja safely to the other side of the spirit plane. There are even some boss battles that take place in the spirit realm, and though they offer little challenge, there's much to appreciate in terms of sheer creativity.

Unlike many of the puzzles that comprise Professor Layton games, navigating the spirit world isn't an element of Mini Ninjas just tossed in randomly. In most cases, these puzzles are represented by spirits blocking your path, and only by defeating them or successfully negotiating their traps will you be able to press onward. It's a shame the spirit-world puzzles weren't the main focus of the game, as they're wonderfully delightful to work through.

The presentation in Mini Ninjas on DS, however, is yet another disappointment, especially in light of the wonderful job done on the console versions. The character models here are blocky and ugly, and the game has none of the cute appeal we were hoping for. Environments often show off an impressive expanse, though some areas look slapped together and rough around the edges. On the other hand, when you enter the spirit world, the game becomes a simple yet lovely display of beauty on the dual screen.

The music and sound effects fare a little better, with a surprising variety of themes that fit snugly alongside the game's overall motif. The same, silly samurai utterances from the console iterations are present here, but they don't have nearly the same comedic effect due to the game's lifeless visuals.

Mini Ninjas on DS is an incredible disappointment. There are clearly some great ideas present in the game, and the story set-up is built upon a solid foundation. Once you push the start button on this machine, however, it breaks down and falls in on itself. The controls are haphazard and unreliable, the combat is frustrating and antiquated, and the visuals are sometimes messy and unpolished. The game retains almost none of the cuteness of its console counterparts - a major factor of this new series. Desperate DS owners might want to consider renting it just to experience the spirit-world puzzles, but no one should seriously contemplate buying this game.

By Tony Capri
CCC Freelance Writer

The world of Mini Ninjas on DS is surprisingly expansive, with lots of variety. The 3D environments are solid, but the component parts themselves seem to have been given little love with regards to their construction. The Japanese ink painting-inspired spirit world, though, exudes a simple beauty.
The character control is unreliable and jenky, with a camera that's a mess. The touch-screen controls for the spirit world, however, are intuitive and well thought out.
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
A nice variety of loops that are relatively transparent. Sound effects match the environments and action well.

Play Value
There's plenty to do and see in Mini Ninjas DS, and the virtual world is massive for a handheld game. Unfortunately, that's just more dissatisfaction you'll have to endure. There is value, however, in both the single-card, multiplayer option and being able to replay the spirit-world puzzles you've unlocked

Overall Rating - Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Three heroes with specific combat styles and weapons.
  • Multiplayer duels in multiboot (only one cartridge needed).
  • Exclusive Plane of Spirit tactile 2D puzzles.

  • Screenshots / Images
    Mini Ninjas screenshot - click to enlarge Mini Ninjas screenshot - click to enlarge Mini Ninjas screenshot - click to enlarge Mini Ninjas screenshot - click to enlarge Mini Ninjas screenshot - click to enlarge Mini Ninjas screenshot - click to enlarge Mini Ninjas screenshot - click to enlarge Mini Ninjas screenshot - click to enlarge Mini Ninjas screenshot - click to enlarge Mini Ninjas screenshot - click to enlarge Mini Ninjas screenshot - click to enlarge Mini Ninjas screenshot - click to enlarge

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