July 22, 2011 4 Comments
It’s easy to explain the appeal in Angry Birds, the first true gaming hit for phones and tablets. It’s got colorful graphics and an “anyone can learn it” playability factor. 250,000,000 downloads later and everyone and their creepy uncle is looking to ape its style and have a hit on their own. Most of these knockoffs completely miss the point and play about as good as three-day left-over, unrefrigerated pizza tastes. Which is to say, not very good.
Eric Cosky and his Bounding Box Games studio did what anyone with a lick of sense would do: piggybacked on a the physics-puzzle-aiming genre that Angry Birds popularized. There’s only one difference between them and everyone else: they made a better game.
In Star Ninja you’re a stationary ninja who must throw shurikens at pirates. You have a limited number of shots to knock out all the pirates on the stage. Any star you throw will bounce off the walls at high speeds until it runs out of steam, hits an explosive barrel, or gets stuck in a box. Personally, I wasn’t aware that ninja stars were made of high-density rubber. Video games: fun AND educational.
There are fifty single-screen levels that can be played in four different game modes. I played through “focus mode” which is just your basic “kill all the pirates in X amount of shots” stuff. In each level you have to carefully study the layout and figure out the best angles to throw your stars at. Sometimes it’s easier to simply throw a star directly at a pirate, while other times you’ll want to drop a box or an anchor on their head. I had lots of chuckles when a pirate would stand by all smug only to have a tiny box lightly graze their head, killing them. I can also appreciate any game where I can say the sentence “I’m juggling a pirate corpse” to my boyfriend in a totally deadpan manner and mean it. Even if he did look at me like it was time to call the nice guys with the white coats and nets.
One of the things that I felt ultimately ruined the experience of Angry Birds is the constant addition of new birds, some of whom were as worthless as an editor’s choice award from Gamespot is. There’s none of that crap in Star Ninja. What you see is what you get for all fifty levels. And that’s perfectly fine with me. It took me around two hours to finish the fifty levels, and at no point was I in danger of falling asleep and drowning in my bowl of Fruit Loops that lay in front of me. In fact, I had quite a good time. By time I was done with Focus Mode I really felt no need to play through the game in its three alternative modes, which include being able to use unlimited stars or a campaign mode where points carry over. These might have been a little overkill, but if you’re the type to truly get madly addicted to a game they’ll come in handy. There’s also global leader boards, six of which are occupied by a totally insanely cool niche game critic.
I do have a couple of complaints. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which boxes are ones stars will bounce off of and which ones the stars will stick in. That can get mildly annoying, like having a fly buzz-bomb you while you try to type a review. But it’s easy enough to just start the room over again so it might not have been worth mentioning at all. Sorry. And also the game can be seemingly fickle about how much force a box requires to kill a pirate. On an unrelated note, you would think guys that survive the brutal discipline and scurvy associated with being a pirate wouldn’t be phased by having a box fall on their toe. Well, I guess it might be ingrown or something. That would hurt a lot. Carry on.
Everyone wants to make the next Angry Birds. Star Ninja is a better Angry Birds. It’s got its own charm, personality, style, and it never gets boring. It’s one of the better games on the indie marketplace and it well worth your 80 Microsoft Points. It’s also on Windows Phones, and it might make more sense to download it for that if you have the option. It also finally, once and for all, answered the age-old question of pirates or ninjas. The answer is clearly ninjas. Now let’s move on to the more pressing question: dinosaurs or Batman?
80 Microsoft Points said dinosaurs because look what they did to the rich, well equipped guy in Jurassic Park in the making of this review.
UPDATE: Star Ninja is now FREE for Windows Phone 7. If you’re an especially cheap bastard and 80 MSP is too much for you, you have no excuse now. Well besides not owning a piece of shit Window Phone. Um, never mind, here’s the link.