Ninja Crash

Note: this review originally said that Ninja Crash was 80MSP.  The actual price is 240MSP. Sorry for the mistake.

Being lazy, I prefer to sum up the Xbox Live Indie Game market by saying a game is just XBLIG’s version of an existing game.  It saves a lot of time.  So I can say Gateways is XBLIG’s version of Portal.  Doom & Destiny is XBLIG’s version of Final Fantasy.  Sushi Castle is XBLIG’s version of Binding of Isaac.  It’s easy!  Frees up my time to watch reruns of House with my boyfriend.

Today’s game is Ninja Crash, which I’ll call XBLIG’s version of Balloon Fight.  Which was Nintendo’s version of Joust.  Which was Williams’ version of mixing tequila and LSD and translating it to a video game.  To be perfectly honest, I never played Joust.  I’ve played Balloon Fight, because I got it for my birthday on Animal Crossing.  Played it for about fifteen minutes, thought it was okay, wish my gift had been bamboo flooring for my house instead.  Haven’t really thought much of it since.  Well, now it’s back as an XBLIG, only with more features, modern graphics, and somewhat shoddier gameplay.

I’ve shown this game to five people and they all said “wow, looks like Smash Bros.!” And then they see it in motion and are like “oh, it’s Balloon Fight.” And then they make a sad face.

One of the reasons why I never got into Balloon Fight was the slow, plodding controls combined with the unforgiving inertia that seemed designed to inspire new curse words being invented.  Sadly for me, those controls are faithfully recreated here.  It’s not that the game controls like shit.  It controls just like the 1984 Nintendo game it was inspired by.  My problem is, gaming has come far in the last 28 years.  All that progress is ignored in Ninja Crash.  Maybe that’s what fans of the original want.  When I tweeted that I was playing a Balloon Fight clone, I had several people do the Dance of Joy and demand that I release the name of the game I was playing to them.  Guess what?  I’m sure they’ll love it.

I didn’t though.  I might have, if their attempts at improving the formula didn’t fail.  But they did.  Here’s a common problem they tried to fix: enemies hanging out near the ceiling.  Happened in Balloon Fight.  As I just learned, happened in Joust too.  Unlike a lot of attempts at improving games, this is a real thing that did require improvement, so I applaud them for giving it a try.  It just didn’t work.  When you or enemies hover too close to the ceiling, a finger comes down from the sky and pushes you back towards the ground.  And I’ll be damned if it’s not the most annoying thing in gaming since Baby Mario’s cry in Yoshi’s Island.  It also pushes the enemies down, often right into you.  I appreciate the effort, but wouldn’t a better idea have been to line the ceiling with barbed wire or something?  Hell, they actually did do that in later levels, and it worked.  The finger thing is like trying to stop people from speeding by putting a brick wall up every five feet.

The other big problem is popping guys doesn’t result in their death.  It didn’t in Balloon Fight either, but at least if they landed on the ground, you had a few seconds to kick them off the edge before they inflated another balloon and took off.  You don’t even have a full second in Ninja Crash.  Once a dude lands, they immediately begin inflating a new balloon and take to the skies before you can even collect yourself.  And unlike Balloon Fight, simply touching them while they’re grounded does not defeat them.  You have to land on them again.  Because you don’t so much control your character as you do aim him and hope for the best, this feature serves to multiply the frustration factor.  Granted, they did make it so if you pop a dude and he falls too great a distance before hitting the floor, he dies (or crashes, if you will), but I almost never did kill a dude that way.  I either had to pop them above the water or hope like hell I could pop them close enough to land that I could double-tap them.  What was so wrong with the way it was done in Balloon Fight?

The screenshots don’t do the game justice. It does look really good in motion.  Oh, and see those spears in the corner?  They kill you.

Team Devil Games had their heart in the right place with Ninja Crash, and some additions to the formula (environmental hazards, weapons) are a welcome change of pace.  But every step forward is followedby a bigger step backwards.  Ninja Crash has an audience out there that will enjoy its take on the classic Joust formula, but I didn’t like it at all and I can’t recommend it.  I also didn’t get a chance to give this a try in competitive four-player mode.  Sorry Team Devil Games, but you did sort of release right in the middle of the holiday gaming season.  Trying to tear my friends away from Borderlands 2, Halo 4, or Black Ops 2 is an act of futility not seen since the time I watched Brian attempt to break the world record for most live bees fit into a mouth.

Ninja Crash was developed by Team Devil Games

240 Microsoft Points said this game is further proof the judges of Dream-Build-Play don’t actually play video games in the making of this review.

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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

5 Responses to Ninja Crash

    • An XBLIG Guy says:

      I don’t think is a negative review. It certainly made me want to try the game – I’m a “Joust” fan!
      Some people like certain games, and that’s a fact we all live with.

  1. An XBLIG Guy says:

    I agree with the 80 MS Points. The DBP contest follows some weird rules: It has to look pretty, whether it’s fun to play or not (remember Lumi?). Also, all 3D games are disqualified by default.

    Still, I’m all up for free publicity ^_^

  2. Pingback: Indie Links Round-Up: At The Office | The Indie Game Magazine - Indie Game Reviews, Previews, News & Downloads

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