Just like everyone else, ninjas come in all shapes and sizes. Mini Ninjas Adventures casts you in the role of Hiro, a young ninja who fight must through hordes of enemies to save his friends and master from the Samurai Warlord. Like Hiro, the game is cute on the outside but has a surprising amount of depth, and despite some occasional hiccups it’s a great example of how a Kinect game can be a lot of fun when it is well-executed.
Mini Ninjas Adventures is an offshoot of 2009′s Mini Ninjas, but has nothing in common with its predecessor other than its visual style and the characters. In Adventures, Hiro stays at the bottom of the screen, following your movements left and right. At the start, you have only a sword, which you swing with your right hand. That only works for close enemies though, and as you progress you’ll earn a bow and arrow for dealing with long range foes and throwing stars for anyone in between. The sword controls are pleasantly accurate, especially when I was able to resist the temptation to swing wildly and actually thought about what I was doing.
Each weapon is linked to a gesture, and it’s easy to quickly swap and focus on enemies at different distances when fighting. I did have some problems with the bow and arrow controls, though. At times, I could fire off arrows in rapid succession, while other times I had problems firing even a single one. As I played the game, I was able to tune my gesture for more consistent results, but it was still hit and miss.
In addition to your weapons, you can kick enemies at close range to send them backwards or stun then, opening them up for attack. You’ll also gain the ability to block ranged attacks, which can deflect them back at the attacker if timed correctly. Progressing through the game unlocks three different spells, each with a different magic cost and area of effect. You also have the ability to use the Kinect voice controls to call on your fellow Ninjas for help when the situation is dire. Along with health and critical hits, each of these abilities can be upgraded using points earned from each round, allowing you to customize your character as you like.
Weapons and abilities are unlocked at a steady pace as you progress through the game, keeping the action fresh. In addition, the enemy types change frequently, and you’ll encounter enemies with unbreakable shields and wizards who shield your foes from damage or cast spells that weaken your attack. The enemy variation adds to the challenge and provides a layer of strategy to the game. For example, if you take out a troop leader, his minions will flee in fear, leaving you with less work to do.
Mini Ninjas Adventures has a cute visual style, and the sounds are playful to match. The game controls really well overall, although it seemed like it would have been better with more space than I have in my living room. Even standing on the border between the good and best zones for Kinect I still had intermittent issues with overhead gestures not being recognized, and had some trouble with actions performed on the far right or left of the play area. The Kinect calibration when the game starts had some real issues, and I had to move around a lot for it to find me, even needing to reset once because it seemed to get stuck. After that, it was smooth sailing though, and leaving the play area and coming back was no problem.
Mini Ninjas Adventures is a great example of good game design for the Kinect. The gestures are unique enough that they don’t get mixed up, and nothing is unnecessarily complex. The progression of weapons and enemies kept me engaged the entire time, and I was always having enough fun to forgive the occasional control glitch. It’s a cute, enjoyable game and definitely worth checking out.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.