Mark of the Ninja is the tale of an unnamed protagonist whose clan temple is attacked by mercenaries. The Marked Ninja is given a mission of vengeance and tattooed with magical ink, gifting power but eroding sanity. As the game progresses, uncovered secrets cast doubts on Azai, the clan leader who gave the ninja his bitter charge. The ending, without spoiling it, is worth playing for.
The story is told through short and enjoyable cinematics, and narration by Ora, the ninja’s female accomplice. Created by Klei Entertainment, this single-player 2d stealth game was originally released in 2012. While the 2018 remaster includes sharper visuals and remastered audio, the gameplay remains the same.
To succeed in the mission, stealth is essential. Paying attention to both light and sounds is important, as either can reveal the ninja’s presence to close-by guards. While facing an individual enemy head-on is possible, everyone besides the ninja has a gun. Getting close requires staying in the shadows.
The player’s loadout is adjusted through unlockable tools, and these selections feel impactful. Choosing between smoke bombs to fool lasers, or caltrops to stop guards in their tracks, changes the way levels can be approached. Every player will undoubtedly have their own preferred gadgets.
A total of seven ninja paths are unlocked further down the game. They challenge the player to, for example, finish levels without being noticed or without killing. The Path of Serenity gives the power to teleport in exchange for fewer distraction tools. The Path of Silence strips the sword in favor of silent footsteps. There are also options for terrorizing guards or making direct combat more viable. Considering the mostly linear level progression, the paths offer surprising variance in strategy.
Unfortunately, the organic feeling stealth areas are interrupted by straightforward puzzles. The moving blocks, lasers, and pressure plates create mostly simple, unremarkable puzzles, the weakest parts of the game. Unlike other sections, they rob the player of freedom of approach: puzzles tend to have only one correct solution. On the other hand, special challenge rooms felt a more welcome change of pace – they are more intricate, and optional.
A determined player could finish Mark of the Ninja in a day. Though a bit short, unlocking all customization options and paths can take multiple playthroughs. The New Game+ replay option also adds challenges: enemies deal more damage, visual audio indicators are hidden, and vision is limited to the front of the character. If the length is no issue, expect an interesting story and a stealth experience clearly made with passion.
Developers: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux
Release Date: 25.9.2018
Genres: Action, Stealth, Platformer, 2D
PEGI Rating: 16
Screenshots by the author.