January 22, 2012 Leave a comment
Ramen Ninja is a stealth game starring the world’s most frugal cast of characters. The idea is a bunch of bad guys stole all your ramen and you want to steal it back. Can’t you buy, like, a metric ton of that shit for around $10? Talk about a bunch of cheapskates. And it’s not like they’re against the concept of hard work, because the guy goes to insane lengths to get his noodles back. This involves sneaking around buildings, hiding under cover, and pushing crates around. Meanwhile, the bad guys own those buildings and have hired dozens of security guards and mangoat-thingies to guard it. What the fuck happened to the economy in Japan when I wasn’t looking that it has come to this?
Action in Ramen Ninja is takes place from a top-down perspective. The idea is you have to sneak around various guards while pushing buttons and solving crate puzzles. All the enemies have line-of-sight cones that you have to avoid, or they begin chasing you. You also have to be silent, and this requires holding the A button to tip-toe around guards or the Y button to crawl around them. It all sounds fine and dandy in theory, but the guards are so inept at their jobs that you might as well let them see you and leg it for the finish. This was my primary strategy. At your normal speed you’re faster than them, so why not? I would end up leading entire conga lines of them through each stage in a manner so wacky that the game might as well been set to the tune of Yakety Sax. The penalty if you get seen and chased is a lower score. The game works on a five-star rating scale. If you get seen, the most you can finish a stage with is three stars, which was just fine with me.
I would have played along with the stealth stuff, but I found that it often just didn’t work. I would hide in an alcove, which the game makes a big deal of, but the guards would still spot me. The same was true in multiple instances of hiding under tables, behind plants, and sometimes even on the other sides of walls. I would sneak around while holding the crawl button and the guard would still be alerted to my position. Heck, in some stages the level would start with a guard immediately onto me and giving chase. I don’t know if this was by design or not, but considering that the guard was two feet in front of me and there was no chance of escape, I’m guessing it’s just flawed design. The unworkable stealth aspects were just not worth the bother half the time and so I would just begin the Benny Hill sketch again. It was always laughably easy to do that. Again, the guards are not as fast as you. And even if they close in, they might just fall asleep on you. No really, they’ll be inches away from you and then doze off, complete with a “Zzzz” thought-bubble. It’s like the diabolical ramen thieves still wanted to meet all equal-opportunity employment criteria and hired nothing but narcoleptics. It’s something I’ve been accused of having from time to time so I probably shouldn’t jokegffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff huh? Is dinner done? Wait, where I am? Oh right, Ramen Ninja review.
There’s also the mangoat-thingies that chase you around. They’re just like the guards, only they put you to sleep by singing you a lullaby. It leaves you temporarily stunned, but not so much that they can then run up and catch you. Assuming you’ve been legging it, you’ll likely have enough distance to survive the nap and keep running for it. Like the guards, you move faster than them, so unless you get put to sleep by one and caught by another, they’re pretty useless.
It’s such a shame that the sneaky stuff doesn’t work, because you see that a lot of thought went into the level design. All the stages are designed in unique ways that would use the element of stealth. There’s also lame stuff like crate shoving, or in this case, sleepy security guard shoving, but you never really get to experience it the way the developers intended. Despite all my complaints, I admit I had some fun with it. Thus, Ramen Ninja becomes one of those weird games on my site that is utterly broken and obviously unfinished, and yet I do kind of recommend giving it a go. A little bit. Like a quarter-teaspoon of recommendation. I mean, the whole wacky chase thing is not what the developers had in mind, but I was often smiling and giggling along with my boyfriend while I pissed away all the intent of the game. With some more development time, the stealthy stuff might have worked and Ramen Ninja might have been something special, instead of being the kind of special it is. As in “forgive my daughter for licking your wallpaper. She’s special.”