What makes a good multiplayer game? Is it earning massive killstreaks and leveling up one’s profile to unlock more and more deadly tools of war? Is it perhaps simple game play mechanics so just about anyone can pick up the controller and get into the game?
I really have no idea as I think if someone were to accurately formulate the answer to that question, they would have a billion dollar idea in their hands.
Until such day, the best we can do is look at examples of good multiplayer games and try to figure out what makes them so much fun in the first place.
Playing through Atomic Ninjas, I feel as though it has components to be a good multiplayer game and yet oddly enough, it just isn’t very fun.
To talk about a “story” in Atomic Ninjas would be as useful or relevant as asking how much potato salad there is on the moons of Jupiter so I’ll just skip directly into the game play.
The player controls a Ninja which come in a few playable forms with different loadouts of one mobility and one weapon. The movement is quick and responsive as are the attacks themselves, as zipping across the stage using hook shots and rockets all while attacking felt natural minus one unfortunate hiccup.
I can’t help but wonder why they would map the jump button to the ‘X’ button when the right thumb needs to be placed on the right analog stick most of the time. It seemed like an odd design choice that made the game a bit more cumbersome to control than it needed to be. Without the option to change the button configuration, I was left more or less using the mobility tool to move around instead of the jump button.
There are many different types of modes of play present in Atomic Ninjas but all of them should sound familiar to anyone who has played a modern multiplayer title.
“King of the Hill” is a TV show that depicts the everyday exploits of a propane salesman named “Hank Hill” and his family and friends. Oh yes, it is also a game mode in which a player must hold a position on the map to earn points.
Capture the flag is a game mode where one… captures the flag and brings it back to his/her designated base. It doesn’t get very inventive with its modes but thankfully it manages to mix things up by offering an “objective” mode where all the game mode changes in between quick rounds that also shuffles teammates around to keep the action frantic and interesting.
The big hook of the title is that enemies can only be destroyed via environmental hazards as the most anyone can do is to just knock away enemy ninjas hoping they’ll fall into their watery death or be fried on a electric fence.
It’s something similiar to Smash Bros in that way without the % meter as the enemy Ninjas will not accumulate any kind of damage no matter how many times they’re hit.
Thus, this is a game all about positioning and it’s easy to figure out that luring people into an unfavorable spot is the best way to score easy kills over some elaborate skill shot.
Given death has very little meaning in most of the game modes, killing an opponent doesn’t feel all that satisfying or meaningful outside of a minor inconvenience of instantly spawning back in another location for the enemy.
There is of course the obligatory RPG progression mechanic, where each game played nets the player some experience which goes to unlocking new ninjas to play as but as I mentioned, the differences basically seemed entirely cosmetic outside of small loadout differences so even that didn’t feel all that interesting.
There are also side challenges to meet during the match that go on to unlock “super powers”, but they’re just perks that either give a small new ability or make an existing one slightly more powerful.
In terms of game design, I feel as though they’re really not doing anything new or interesting here to really set themselves apart from their competition, as every game mode and most mechanics seems to have been lifted from other, more successful multiplayer games.
Add to that the serious lack of variety in weapons and a small players base which I struggled to find more than two man games in, and I have to wonder if this title might have been better served in development for just a little longer to add some fresh ideas and a greater arsenal of weaponry.
Either way, while entirely playable in its current form, there isn’t much of note to play around with here and perhaps time would be better spent playing other, superior multiplayer games.
Fun Tidbit: I don’t really get offended by stereotypes but some of their voice work on the ninjas do go a little overboard.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.