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Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Switch
Publisher(s): Rising Star Games
Developer(s): Bitmap Bureau
Genre(s): Action
Release Date: October 5, 2017
ESRB Rating: T for Blood, Violence

Think of the twitchiest game you’ve ever played. Then think of the game with the loosest controls. Then dismiss both immediately because Ninja Shodown is here to ensure you’ve never seen a twitch or felt looseness until you’ve played just five seconds of what it has to offer.

Oh, and for good measure it drops a hundred dabs in too. Yeah, that’s right – twitching dabbing ninjas. What has the world come to?

Well in fact, that is exactly what the world has come to because Ninja Shodown finds itself delivering all those things in one small package. But unfortunately, it has failed to deliver much else… other than a local multiplayer versus mode which is decent fun.

Ninja Shodown tells the tale of a group of ninjas who make up the Viper Clan – that’s a cool name if there ever was one. This team of colourful dabbing characters are the sworn guardians of the mystical jade katana and they have promised to put their lives on the line in order to protect it. It just so happens that someone wants to now steal it and so you have to go and get it back. Obviously.

Well bully for them because after just a couple of minutes with Ninja Shodown, I was all up for leaving them to it, as I found myself dying unfairly time and time again. And if there is one thing I dislike about gaming it’s when something unfair is put into place. Who wants to protect a god damn katana anyways?

Certainly not me, but in the interests of fairness I decided to stick with it, and fortunately things got better as I began to understand the mechanics and premise behind the game. It didn’t get a lot better mind, but at least I wasn’t left flabbergasted at how something so poor could make its way on to the most powerful console the world has ever known. First impressions can be wrong you know.

The basic idea of Ninja Shodown is to beat back whatever enemies dare enter your vicinity. With multiple stages, it’s all just a matter of moving your swift, twitchy, dabbing ninja from platform to platform, taking down anyone who cares to get in your way.

You’ve got a sword as standard but randomly dropped crates bring shurikens, bombs, shotguns, lightning strikes and more. These are limited in supply though so if you think you can just sit in the corner firing out throwing star after throwing star, you’d be very much mistaken. Not that I tried that even the once. Honest.

Should you manage to kill enough enemies – I’m not sure how many though as the super fast paced nature ensures much of it is a blur – and you’ll head on to the next stage for more of the same.

Three initial lives are all you’ll have to protect the jade katana, but keeping those is easier said than done. You see, enemies don’t ever need to fight back in order to rid you of your soul but instead just need to touch you, even with the briefest of glances as they run around the screen at warp speed. With the sheer pace of things, those loose controls I originally spoke of, and the fact that your attempted half arsed strikes or rolling dodge don’t always seem to take hold on a button press, you’ll begin to understand how easy it is to lose a life. With multiple doors scattered around each level, and your foes using these to magically appear in a split second, luck plays a huge role in whether your katana protection success rate is high or not. And if I’m honest, I’m not much a fan of games which rely on luck over judgement.

Thankfully should you somehow scrap and scrape your way through a level or two, will find your efforts ranked by number of kills, the amount of times you died, how many times you’ve stupidly killed yourself and how many multi-kills you’ve imaginatively actioned. If you’re deemed to be a proper ninja, you might even find yourself gifted an extra life too…  although chances are that will be wiped out in mere seconds of you attempting the next stage.

This ranking system is all well and good, and it at least gives those who manage to get to grips with the twitchy controls something to aim for, but for the vast majority of gamers the very least of your worries will be centred on just how you can better any previous score. Managing to make it through a stage is an art in itself.

The arcade mode which will play host to much of the action can be utilised by a solo gamer, or those who can gather up a group of four friends. Each player will get to choose from one of ten coloured ninjas, and set their own unique name before dropping a dab and getting into the action. Seriously, Pogba, the FIFA community and eight year old kids have got nothing on these guys. The thing is, each and every ninja is the same as his compatriot and there are no unique abilities to set them apart, so it matters little which one you choose. I know a ninja is a ninja, but I’d like to see a little variation.

An Infinite mode is also in place but I’m pretty sure you can guess what that does, whilst the snazzily named Versus mode caters for those who refuse to play against the AI and prefer to fight it out with mates over dinner. Personally speaking, I’d ditch the food and get on to the hard drinking as soon as possible – at least if you want to try and enjoy Ninja Shodown. As a budget title it comes as no surprise to see a lack of any online capabilities, so if you don’t have sofa based friends then your luck is pretty much out.

But that said, if you can coerce friends over, either with the promise of free food or copious amounts of beer, then you’ll probably find that the Versus mode will keep you busy as someone goes to crack open another tin. And it is here where the fun of ninja fighting is at its best. Last Ninja (fight to the death), Battle (fight to the death some more), Coin (collect numerous coins to be crowned winner whilst fighting to the death) and Crown (keep a crown on your head as long as possible and have a little fight to the death) modes are all present with five zones and five levels available for custom game types should you be looking for variety. This Versus mode is the highlight of Shodown. In fact I’d even hesitantly recommend a group of friends dropping a dollar or two each into the pot in order to give it a go for the night.

Except that a dollar or two between four players wouldn’t be enough to kick a download of Ninja Shodown off. $14.99 is way too high a price for a game that offers little, and without that cost coming down by at least 50%, you should pretty much dismiss this out of hand.

And that my friends is Ninja Shodown in a nutshell. The crisp old school visuals and audio both do the job intended of them, but at no point will you be sitting there and thinking that Bitmap Bureau have done an outstanding job. In fact, at no point will you be thinking they have done an outstanding job with any part of Ninja Shodown as without some drunk mates alongside you, it struggles to entertain. Unless of course you enjoy watching ninjas dab for no reason other than that they can.

If you want a very twitchy, pretty frustrating ninja based experience then go ahead and buy Ninja Shodown. But if you’re a loner, I’d put money on the fact you won’t be playing it much longer than half an hour, unless you just love to see blood splattering everywhere – because then you may stretch things out to 45 minutes. I think the developers secretly agree with me too because there’s even an achievement for completing the Arcade side of the game in less than 20 minutes, although granted you’ll need to bring some proper ninja skills to the table for that to happen. Even more telling in my eyes though is the fact the devs have failed to bother including any Gamerscore in relation to either of the other modes aside from Arcade. Why else would I want to spend time, and see my frustration levels rise, with the Infinite mode if there is no reason to do so?

The inclusion of dabbing in a game about ninjas tells you a lot about both the experience itself and the thoughts behind it. Is it serious? No. Is it worth bothering with? Not unless you’ve got some friends over for a party.

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