Ninjas, Evil Trees and Social Integration Fly High on the iPhone in Ninjatown
The iPhone is a breeding ground for simple games and applications. However, simple does not mean low quality. To prove this point, stuffed animal creator Shawnimals and Venan Entertainment have teamed up to create a simple, vertical platforming game on the Apple device called Ninjatown: Trees Of Doom!
At first glance, some might dismiss this game as another Doodle Jump clone, but Ninjatown takes a more strategic approach than the twitch reactions of that older title. To be fair, the term “strategic” is most relevant in the way that Mario games are strategic. Most of the time, the platforming in such games is done at the player’s pace with only occasional moments of fast-paced twitchiness. The only difference between the classic plumber and our new ninja friend is that is that while one runs across plains of bricks and warps down pipes, the other is climbing a pair of (evidently) evil trees in an easy to learn, yet often unforgiving environment.
The aim behind Ninjatown is simple enough: Defeat “Mr. Demon.” Players start at the base of two impossibly tall trees and begin their ascent to do so. The controls are simple and intuitive, as a player merely taps on the tree to jump to it, alternating sides for quicker ascents. Should you press and hold, you jump slightly higher, and if you touch the tree your ninja is clinging to, you simply climb up that side normally.
Of course, that wouldn’t be too much fun, so shortly after beginning, users get introduced to a handful of elements to use and/or avoid, forcing them to jump back and forth between the two trunks. As far as hazards go, these tend to range from bat-like flying demons to some sort of purple goo. Obviously, they’re not things you want to touch, so to help you get around them, players can use tree branches to sling themselves extra high on a manually-aimed trajectory or use rubbery mushrooms to bounce themselves extra, extra high.
Between just this handful of features, Ninjatown is already pretty interesting, but the developers don’t stop there. To incorporate even greater levels of difficulty, there are many reaction-based elements tossed in. The best example of this is bark stripped areas of the trees. These cannot be climbed normally, and, in fact, you can slowly slide off the screen if you linger. The only way to proceed is to hop back and forth between the two massive trees. It’s not all that hard, really…. Well, at least not at first.
As users proceed higher, the difficulty begins to ramp up quite a bit. The higher one goes, the more enemies appear, and the more they move about. All enemies move in repetitive, predictable patterns, but more often than not, precision becomes a necessity. This is further enhanced by the fact that the many barkless areas grant little time to think. Couple this with increasing levels of purple goo, and you have yourself a pretty hard game.
Thankfully, Ninjatown doesn’t get too difficult until very deep into it, so it won’t go scaring away your typical casual player. That said, the penalty for failure does feel a bit high. One hit, most of the time, and you’re dead, forcing you to restart all the way back at the bottom. Because this is a bit of a slower paced game, it does feel very costly, especially without checkpoints.
To mitigate the problem to some degree, there are various power ups that can be picked up to help the user out. These include things like defensive shields, smoke bombs, and a sort of Superman cape that rockets you upward as “Super Ninja.” As a matter of fact, all of these power ups are pretty cool, and certainly warrant the mention of this title’s fantastic visual style.
It’s a style saturated into every aspect of Ninjatown. With its warm colors, highly cartoony and simplistic characters, and pleasant sounding music, it’s a title that’s hard to get frustrated with.
And the more challenging aspects are also sort of the point. The social integration for this game is done primarily through the Plus+ network, and while there are any number of achievements to unlock and share through said platform, the biggest accomplishments are rising through the leaderboards. As a challenging platformer, these accomplishments are all the more rewarding. That said, even if you don’t find competing with strangers all that interesting, you can always post your scores and new heights to both Facebook and Twitter as well.
All in all, and despite later difficulty, Ninjatown: Trees Of Doom! is a fantastic app to have for the iPhone. It costs $1, but feels more than worth it. It’s a game that is easily picked up and played for a few minutes here and there, yet is challenging enough to be played significantly longer. Ninjatown is well worth the time and cost. Unless you hate ninjas; but let’s face it, “Piratetown” just wouldn’t sound right, now would it?