As stealth games goes, Mark of the Ninja is a revelation. Although not a huge fan of the genre, I have played my fair share of stealth games but I have never played one quite like Mark of the Ninja.
A 2D side-scroll game, Mark of the Ninja requires the character to sneak through a series of levels while staying away from traps and out of sight of guards. The player is visible to enemies in areas of light and hidden in darkness; however that’s not all. Enemies also react to sounds and actions like running may also give away the player character's location and are represented visually by an expanding circle.
If the player do manage to silently approached an enemy, the player will be able to perform a one-hit kill. The silent assassination is performed by the player moving the mouse in the direction showed on screen. This may sound easy but in the heat of the moment with the fear of being discovered always hanging above you, it is not as easy as it sounds. You can also move your enemies around by making sounds so that they would come to investigate, and when they do…
Being able to perform silent kills is not just fun, it is also very important because in the game, open combat is not to your advantage. Mark of the Ninja takes place in a modern world where your enemies are armed with guns and body armor; you are a nameless ninja armed with ancient ninja weapons. If you are detected by an enemy, chances are you will lose the fight. If it’s two on one, then you can practically forget about it. You lose.
This trade-off is one of the things I love about this game. Mark of the Ninja mercilessly forces you to go on the stealth route, but the ability to make your enemies move into position and silenced them makes you predator, not prey. This allows the players to feel like a badass while at the same time making the penalty of being exposed by enemies very high. Klei Entertainment knows what game they were making; you are not Corvo, Agent 47 or Sam Fisher; there’s no fighting your way out of a jam.
In fact, not fighting is the way to go in the game. Mark of the Ninja is an assassination game, not a fighting one. The game touted that you can complete the game without killing anyone. Completing the game, I have to say that it is possible but would be very hard. The same can be said about killing every enemy on a level. It’s possible, but only just. However having such options in-game shows the versatility of the game which is always a good thing.
The story of the game was also surprisingly good. Told via a series of cutscenes, the story is basically about the conflict between ancient ninja traditions and the modern world. What seems like a straight forward story of betrayal got turned on its head in the final act when you discover that the protagonist (the player) might be psychotic.
The only real complain I would have is some of the level design. Shadow plays a huge part of the game and sometimes I have an issue with it. Which wall I can climb on and which wall I can’t; which staircase I can drop from, which I can’t. In the shadowy 2D world of Mark of the Ninja, this is not always clear.
However this is just a minor complain when you compare it to the unique game it is. It is a fun, challenging game with good sound, art and story. It is also a brand new fresh take on the stealth genre. So play it, Mark of the Ninja is an excellent game.