Atomic Ninjas, the latest game to be developed by Grip Games, the makers of Foosball 2012, is an online 2.5d 4-player platform brawler for the PS3 and PS Vita currently on the PSN store.
When you first look at Atomic Ninjas it feels like an upbeat title that doesn’t want to take itself too serious, especially if you judge it by its beginning sequence of a vibrantly colored slideshow that plays out the game’s…’story’. A tale that starts out with a man behind a terminal, who inevitably falls asleep hitting a button, causing nuclear fallout, then ninjas. That’s it.
Being that a platform brawler isn’t truly about the gripping tale of why the bout is taking place, the simple nature of its story became more of a blessing of simplicity and lush drawings. Sadly, once the cut-scene was finished, the vibrantly colored visuals were gone and replaced by a 2.5d game that looks as if it was an HD PSOne title. The game’s stylistic choice of using polygons, and what could be guessed as an attempt to look animated, leaves the game from beginning to end looking bland and dated. Character models are little more than a giant polygon with stubby limbs, which would be ‘cute’ if the whole game didn’t feel so blocky and agonizingly barren.
The combat mechanics of this brawler are designed off having a single offensive and defensive pickup, which also adds to everlasting feeling of emptiness found throughout this game. The offensive/defensive item you choose at the beginning or pick up during the match will determine your only method of attack or defense. There are only 3 offensive options: Shuriken – the ability to throw a ninja star knocking an opponent back, Punch – a close range area effect that knocks an opponent back and Force Grab – which picks up one of the randomly spawning boxes and tosses it, knocking an opponent back. If you didn’t notice the trend, the primary method of disposing of an opponent is to knock them off the stage. This means that the 3 defensive options, are abilities that are designed to prevent that from happening: Grappling hook – a rope that only swings from designated hooks, Claw-Jump – a dash that allows you to stick to the stage and Rocket – which will fly up but will explode if used for too long.
Having only 6 different items mean that the 3 different combat choices become increasingly repetitive, as you are able cycle between them multiple times within a single match. The defensive abilities do little to add much to the combat, as the rocket is by far the best choice, being that it is the only one that can also save you from being knocked downward.
Adding a bit of depth to the game, there is the ability rank up and unlock new characters, but there is no real difference other than a cosmetic change and their choice of offensive/defensive weapon. The real depth falls into the super abilities that you can level up, which will give you better skills in staying invisible (don’t move and you become transparent), stronger punches, more shurikens, a third jump and a few other options. All of which are unlocked by completing ‘ninja trials’, which are tasks you must complete mid-match, such as killing a certain number of opponents with a specific weapon
The game modes available are slightly varied (deathmatch, team deathmatch, CTF, etc…), but there is a major issue in that Atomic Ninjas is predominately online, and over the last few days of playing, I have yet to have a full match. In fact, I have never seen more than 10 people (including myself) in the game’s lobby…ever. This means that a great deal of the matches are running with bots, AI controlled characters that completely change the game, as they fly. Yes, the bots are not ninjas, they are robots with a sakkat, that fly instead of walk, meaning they are able to move around without regard to gravity and break the very nature of the game’s ring out mechanics.
Overall, Atomic Ninjas is a game that could be fun in a very short, small and coordinated situation, but it is not able to bring anything that isn’t already available on the market. If someone is thinking about picking up this game, it would be wise to remember that this is an online based brawler with limited combat options, limited number of levels, a non-existent community from the start and a bot system that will never give you the same experience as playing a regular match.