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1-Bit Ninja Review
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1-Bit Ninja, a slick retro platformer from Kode80 that utilizes both 2D and 3D gameplay, was just released in the app store. Reminiscent of the days of the original GameBoy in both graphics and simplistic style, 1-Bit Ninja reveals itself to be anything but, as you switch frequently from the default 2D presentation to 3D to discover and unlock the game’s hidden pathways.

1-Bit Ninja Pros:

  • Great 2D and 3D presentation that harkens back to days of original GameBoy
  • Simple touch-based controls and no on-screen buttons to muddy the display
  • Secret paths and unlockable camera modes

1-Bit Ninja Cons:

  • No social gaming network integration
  • Inability to go backward will inevitably turn off many gamers

As a side-scroller, your goal is to get the ninja from the left side of the screen to the end point on the right while avoiding all manner of dangers and obstacles, including wide gaps and bad guys reminiscent of mushrooms and hammer brothers from the Mario series. There is a strict 2-minute time limit that forces you to make tracks if you want to complete the level. Plenty of coins, known as bits, spread throughout the level. Nabbing 100 in a level will earn you an extra life. Additionally, there are 5 large coins, called big bits, which are a bit more difficult to acquire. Obtaining all 5 is no easy task, though, and you’ll likely need many replays in order to accomplish this goal. There is a pick-up that makes you faster and invincible for a brief period, and the endpoint is a flagpole that bears a striking resemblance to the Mario Land exits. To say that Mario is a clear influence over 1-Bit Ninja is something of an understatement.

There are, however, some significant departures from the Mario formula that, for better or for worse, set 1-Bit Ninja apart. The first is that you can only move in one direction. There is no “back” option if you overshoot some bits or take the path without the big bit. This is part of the challenge, to perfect your run through the level in such a way that you need not turn back. It can be incredibly frustrating, but it can also be incredibly rewarding to hone your technique to allow you to accomplish your goal within the confines of such a major restriction. The other significant gameplay element is the existence of pathways that are hidden in plain sight, masked by the 2D presentation. The straight-on view of the game makes it appear that the ground is solid, yet a swipe of the finger along the upper half of the screen reveals that there are a number of carved out paths that often lead you to the big bits. Discovering and navigating these pathways is the key to unlocking alternative camera modes, as you need all 5 in a level to do so.

Graphically, 1-Bit Ninja employs a look that mirrors the old-school GameBoy’s greenish appearance, with a different color for each world. Animations are fluid, with gameplay feeling almost too quick sometimes. The ninja can actually be somewhat difficult to control during invincible mode, which lasts a very short while and doesn’t really warn you when it’s ending. The lack of on-screen controls gives the game a very clean presentation that again harkens back to the Super Mario Land days. The chiptune soundtrack has a very retro feel, too, offering a nice complement to the visuals. The music does get a little annoying over time, though, as it can’t quite live up to the iconic Mario soundtrack. Then again, what can? The controls are highly simplified, requiring you to touch the lower left side of the screen to run and to touch the lower right side of the screen to jump. The aforementioned inability to go backward makes itself known early and often. There are occasional situations where you use a spring embedded in a wall to reverse your direction, but this is typically a short-lived situation allowing the ninja to zigzag through a specific part of the level. Maneuvers must be purposeful and deliberate, with little room for error. Switching to and from 3D mode utilizes swiping in the upper half of the screen and allows you to view from a variety of angles. The controls were responsive enough to satisfy our hopes.

Replay value is very good, as you can replay levels to score previously-missed big bits, improve upon your score, or complete the level in a shorter time frame. There is no social gaming network integration, so leaderboards are only local. The unlockable camera modes offer some great visual incentives, too. There are currently 4 worlds with 5 levels in each for a total of 20, but they should keep you busy for a spell. The ability to save replays of your best runs is also a cool perk. For $1.99, 1-Bit Ninja is a pretty solid 4-Dimple challenge.

1-Bit Ninja Review, reviewed by Kevin on 2011-06-23T01:42:21+00:00 rating 4.0 out of 5

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