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Mark Of The Ninja - Stealth Returns To The Darkness

ScottNichols

Posted June 19, 2012 - By Scott Nichols






  • Videos
    (9)
  • Screenshots
  • Cheats and Walkthroughs

  • Videos
    (9)
  • Screenshots
  • Cheats and Walkthroughs







  • Videos
    (6)
  • Screenshots
  • Cheats and Walkthroughs

  • Videos
    (6)
  • Screenshots
  • Cheats and Walkthroughs

  • Videos
    (6)
  • Screenshots
  • Cheats and Walkthroughs

Mark Of The Ninja

As I put down the controller after my playtime with Mark of the Ninja, I was struck with the realization that Klei Entertainment may have made one of the most pure stealth games in recent memory. Even with new Metal Gear, Splinter Cell, and Hitman games on the horizon, the genre’s emphasis is increasingly making the shift toward blockbuster action sequences. And yet, a beacon of hope for sneaks and rogues comes from one of the least likely of places.

Mark of the Ninja is a 2D side-scrolling hardcore stealth game, the prospect of which may sound bizarre. The flat plane of a side-scroller isn’t exactly the best suited for sneaking and hiding. And yet, Klei seems to have found just the right balance of mixing a clever interface with ninja acrobatics to pull it off flawlessly.

It helps that direct combat is never a viable option. Though my ninja carried a sword, it was no match for the range of firearms wielded by my enemies. Even running away once spotted was nearly death sentence thanks to the range of their assault rifles. It forces a more thoughtful, methodical pace to the game, which is complimented by its use of light, shadow, and sound.

Light and shadow have always been hallmarks of the stealth genre. When under a light, the world and characters are shown in vivid color, as to be expected from Klei’s animators that gave life to the vibrant blood-splattered world of Shank and Shank 2. Meanwhile, sticking to the shadows portrays the ninja as a mere silhouette on the screen, yet still clearly visible to the player thanks to a red outline standing in stark contrast to the night time backdrops.

The key is that this rule of lighting applies to enemies as well. Even though I could see the terrain in front of me, if no spotlights were on the path a guard could remain hidden until he was within the ninja’s line of sight.

The mechanic becomes even more interesting when navigating through buildings, as I could see a house’s entire room layout but was still oblivious to the room’s contents until I peeked through a door or ventilation shaft. Splinter Cell-style after images are put to good use, which allowed me to see a ghost image of guards even after leaving a room, and likewise for my own image for the last place a guard saw me.

Sound is also an important tool for a ninja, which Mark of the Ninja represents with rings rippling out from any source of noise. Every gong, bell, running footstep, crashing lantern, or flock of birds has the potential to alert a guard’s attention, and these ripples show exactly the range that each one can reach.

Mark Of The Ninja

Individually, each of these elements is good, but it’s how they are all brought together that makes Mark of the Ninja hard to put down. Seeing a guard patrolling under a spotlight, I used a grappling hook to reach an overhanging ledge and pressed the left trigger to enter a slow motion aiming mode. I targeted the spotlight, and could see the dotted line projecting where the spotlight would fall along with the range of sound it would make on impact. He is a ninja after all, and these visual cues allow players to plan and act as if we possess the ninja’s lightning quick reflexes. Releasing the trigger lets loose a ninja star, and the crashing spotlight instantly catches the guard’s attention as the area becomes shrouded in darkness. The guard’s afterimage remains, making him an easy target to swoop down upon and finish off.

That is one example, but even within the short demo surprising depth could be found in Mark of the Ninja’s stealth mechanics. Master the ninja’s stealth maneuvers, and a perfectly timed blackout can send enemies into a state of terror. Rescuing captured ninjas calls for its own finesse, and the introduction of guards with flashlights, often in groups of three, requires some creative solutions when the environment is fairly bare.

Only a small sampling of the game’s total skills were available in the demo, and already the stealth possibilities are impressive. Klei Entertainment may have made a name for itself on speedy, action-packed brawlers, but with the transition to stealth the studio seems to be on track for its most refined and polished game yet. Stealth fans lamenting their lost genre will have a new champion when Mark of the Ninja arrives on Xbox Live Arcade this summer.

Mark Of The Ninja - Stealth Returns To The Darkness
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