|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: IO Interactive||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|
Caged animals can also be inhabited by Hiro in order to make all of the other hidden items easier to find. When in control of these animals, every hidden object in the level will be highlighted by a pillar of blue smoke, making them more visible, although some are still incredibly well hidden and difficult to find even with this help.
You'll notice that I stated that Hiro can inhabit these animals even though you'll have the option to play as any ninja that you've already freed. Unfortunately, this wasn't a mistake on my part but one that rests solely on IO Interactive. While it has been incorporated into the game's storyline that Hiro is the only ninja besides the Ninja Master that can use magic, it winds up making gameplay a lot more cumbersome than it needed to be. Because of this mechanic, any time you want to take advantage of a powerful spell in combat or need animal assistance to find hidden items, you're forced to switch from whichever ninja you're currently using to Hiro. Even though switching between ninjas is relatively simple, you may find yourself quickly growing tired of the constant need to become Hiro and the delay associated with this change to the point where you'll just play through the majority of the title as the main character. This just seemed like a bad decision altogether, since it essentially continually discouraged the use of any of the other characters.
However, besides this slight issue Mini Ninjas is a fun and enjoyable game. The visual style is fairly cartoony but is perfect for the audience it is targeting and has nice cuteness at every turn. Although you'll spend much of your time in the game swinging weapons at enemies, the violence is very tame, especially considering that most of the enemies you'll face look like enlarged Jawas wearing samurai outfits that once defeated turn into a harmless little animals, similar to the enemies in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. It's amazing to me that a company so well known for making games with mature themes and abundant violence made Mini Ninjas, but I suppose a good game is a good game no matter its ESRB rating or a player's preconceptions. If you're looking for a good-spirited hack and slash/exploration game or just something to have a fun time playing with a younger gamer, then be sure to give Mini Ninjas a try.
CCC Staff Contributor