Review: Mini Ninjas Adventures (XBLA/Kinect)
Title: Mini Ninjas Adventures
Platform: XBLA (Kinect is Required)
Publisher: Square Enix
Tagline: Control the Power of the Mini Ninjas…WITH YOUR OWN BODY
Family Friendly: Click here for more information.
Verdict: Skip It
Mini Ninjas, released in 2009 by developer Io Interactive, was a weird title for that company. I mean, in between such mature rated titles like Hitman Blood Money and Kane and Lynch, they developed this fun little action title that was directed towards more general audiences. However, it never found an audience and for all intent and purpose, you had to figure the Mini Ninjas brand was dead in video game form. Fast forward to 2012, and Mini Ninjas Adventures has shown up on Xbox Live Arcade as a Kinect title from new developer Snapfish. I decided to give it a go, figuring that it would be fun title that I could play with my son. Instead, I cued up a mountain of frustration with controls and calibration as I worked to become the ultimate Mini Ninja.
Mini Ninjas follows the travels of the same protagonist from the first title, Hiro, as he uses his sword, bow, ninja stars, magic and feet to do battle with waves of enemies. There seems to be a story here about fellow Mini Ninjas that have been captured by evil ninjas, but it is rarely dwelled upon at any point in time, as the game just looks to throw in waves of enemies, all staged from three ranges – near midrange and far. As you expect, each weapon you have covers one of these ranges, while magic can attack at all ranges and your kicks can dizzy opponents or knock their shields down.
Being a Kinect only title, you will have to use your Kinect sensor to make quality use of the game, and right from the start, I had issues with Mini Ninjas Adventures. The game goes through a distance calibration sequence, but for the longest time, I could not get it to pick up where I was in the play area. It would show me on screen, but it would not calibrate. I went through the calibration sequence with the famed “Kinect Happy Face Card”, but could not get the game to run. It only worked when I stepped closer to the Kinect by one step forward. It was a bit weird, as I normally have to stand in the previous location to get any Kinect title to work. So, if you have problems getting started, just move a bit forward or back to make sure you are in the calibration window for Mini Ninjas Adventures.
Calibration aside, I can get past that if Mini Ninjas Adventures was fun to play, but it might be the farthest thing from fun. While swinging a sword is simple enough, you need to merely swipe back and forth; I had all kinds of problems with the bow. Using the bow requires you to reach back with your right arm to select the bow and then putting your left arm straight out and using the right arm to mimic pulling back on a bowstring. It sounds simple enough in theory, but it worked about 20-30% of the time. Normally, it was a frantic exercise of my repeating my bow pull six times, only to watch one arrow come out during those six draws. Other times, it would fire three arrows in rapid succession, but I could never figure out what I did to get it to sense my movements properly. Throwing ninja stars was hit and miss as well, but it seemed to work more often than not, as long as you were slow and deliberate in your motions.
But that is the problem, because Mini Ninjas Adventures is a wave based game, and as you progress through the story levels, you are confronted by more and more enemies, requiring fast weapon switching and usage, and Kinect never allows for either of those things to happen on a regular basis. You need to move fast, and it seemed I had to be slow and deliberate with my movements to have them detected by Kinect, and that left me dead or near death due to missteps in combat.
And that becomes the rub, as Mini Ninjas Adventures can be a fun game when the mechanics are clicking together. In the tutorial levels where I am not being timed, I was able to focus on my movements and they worked flawlessly. The game also has you moving around and keeping your energy level high, and that is always a good thing when you want to feel like you have accomplished something while playing a game, but the frustration over the controls in the actual gameplay just kills any of that momentum.
Mini Ninjas Adventures comes with some other mini-games that you can play, which are decent enough and do work with the controls better, although the bow and arrow motions still feel broken as you try to get that motion detected.
I wanted Mini Ninjas Adventures to rekindle the fun I had with the original game, with Kinect controls that worked, but it just is too hit and miss to ever be fun. It has its moments when you think it is all coming together in the training and in some of the mini-games, but as you move towards the later levels, you realize that Kinect was probably not the right means for the game. You might find a little bit of fun with Mini Ninjas Adventures, but I am certain that you will put it back on the digital shelf shortly after you blow a gasket over the poor controls for the tenth time.
Band of the Hand:
- When controls work, game can be a lot of fun
- Keeps you moving
Beverly Hills Ninja:
- Always fighting with controls
- Problems with calibration
- Becomes a little repetitive and tedious
While the controls might force some to shout profane language, Mini Ninjas Adventures is a safe game for all ages. While you are attacking enemy ninjas, they normally faint when “killed” and then disappear from the screen. The Kinect features might require some patience with younger players, but it will work for a family game night