Gentleman Ninja Review: Slash With Class
Could this be the classiest ninja in gaming history?
Most people's idea of a ninja isn't exactly what you'd call "classy" — technically, their guerilla tactics and lust for killing were well in opposition to the period's Samurai code of conduct known as Bushido — but impromptu history lessons aside, such is not the case with the latest ninja on the block. Gentleman Ninja, the new release from independent developers Scott Moakes and Samuel Beattie, features a dapper, mustachioed protagonist facing his foes head-on in a simple and often tense high-scoring slasher title.
Simplicity Is Underrated
The gameplay within Gentleman Ninja is about as basic as possible: the left button is blue, and corresponds to the Gentleman's blue sword, which is used to destroy blue ninjas. The same is largely true for the right button, albeit that one is red, and it's used against red ninjas. Players make their way toward the top of the screen eradicating enemies and blasting through doors as the path quite literally crumbles behind them. The farther players move along the path, the more quickly the road crumbles, and the more deft they must be with their swords.
Everything that begins must also end, of course, and the same is true with Gentleman Ninja. At first, bouts of the game are bound to only last 20 to 40 strikes in before the Gentleman drops into oblivion, but as players grow more attuned, they'll start to see their scores rise. As might be expected, players can compete with their friends for high scores and bragging rights through a local leaderboard of sorts, or can go global to see how they stack up with players from across the world.
Gentleman Ninja is extraordinarly easy to pick up and play, lending itself well to younger players or casual gamers, but after 40 or so enemies into a bout, the game hits an interesting stride. Simple as the blue/red scheme is on the surface, the mechanic quickly turns into a tense gameplay mechanic. Players will likely find themselves looking for an ideal way to best utilize the blue/red system, but that's no easy task; it doesn't work well to try to think purely in color terms, as your thumbs don't work by color; similarly, thinking left/right gets confusing as enemy ninjas themselves move to varying sides of the path. There's really no fool-proof system to make the mechanic work, and in a strange sort way, that's a good thing. It may be simple, but the game isn't what might be called easy, and the urge to push farther and farther down the path makes for good fun regardless of a player's skill level.
Many Ninjas, But Not Much Else
Of course, there's not a tremendous amount of depth to be had here. There are several different Gentlemen that can be unlocked through various milestones like taking out a certain number of red enemies or busting through a certain number of doors, but those unlockable characters provide nothing more than an aesthetic twist. And, given the nature of the gameplay, players won't really be looking at their character anywhere aside from the character selection screen.
The lack of depth is also apparent with the game's visuals and sound. What's presented is quite good — the music is repetitive without being cloying, and the visuals, though quite crisp, don't ever really change. There are also no additional levels or enemies to be found; the gameplay is exactly the same from the first minute to the hundredth.
Best Suit For The Situation
As it stands, the true entertainment potential for Gentleman Ninja comes down to individual player preferences. The zero-dollar price point definitely makes the deal more attractive (there's a $0.99 option to remove ads, if players are so willing), but this likely won't be the game to fill the void on a long train commute, nor will it likely be the game a player turns to in their down time at home. Instead, the brief, rapid-fire nature of Gentleman Ninja is much better suited to those brief instances of time where a quick distraction is welcome. In that regard, it's perfectly-suited to the task at hand.