Mark of the Ninja in the test - shadow war in perfection

Author: Patrick Mittler, Malte Witt
Date: 2012-10-25 13:20:00
Mark of the Ninja turns out to be one of the best sneaking games in recent years - despite or maybe because of the 2D graphics?

Admittedly, when we first heard of Mark of the Ninja , we were rather skeptical. A 2D stealth title? Isn't that too "flat" in the truest sense of the word? On the contrary: after we have extensively assassinated as shadow warriors, we are more than ecstatic: Mark of the Ninja is not only one of the best download jump & runs of the year, but also one of the best stealth games ever.

2D assassin with depth

Mark of the Ninja is a 2D platformer in which we as deadly ninja sneak through a dozen levels and bring our enemies out of the shadows around the corner if possible.

Precise lines of sight and cones of light show us which areas we should avoid. And for being limited to a flat 2D plane, the title harbors tons of elegant ninja skills. Fit like a sneaker, we scramble through ventilation shafts, shuffle upside down along the ceiling, swing through the levels with our grappling hook or hide behind flower pots and in dark corridors. Our pajama-wearing assassin also has mystical tattoos that strengthen his senses. In this way, he can also sense guards who are out of sight, or can see through doors if he leans against them.

But we can also do it differently: At the push of a button, our ninja leaps onto careless guards and rams their swords in the back. Or we distract the henchmen with bamboo darts or smoke bombs. Or scare them with the bodies of finished colleagues, so that the frightened guys shoot wildly around and at best snap out their own buddies. The many possibilities to solve situations leave a lot of playful freedom. And they are extremely bloody and brutal, which is why Mark of the Ninja should never be in the hands of children.

Slitting made easy

The developer Klei Entertainment succeeded in an exemplary manner in the interface. Whether we can see or not is shown, for example, by whether our character or the opponents appear in color or just as a black silhouette. Thanks to the successful control, we are always in control of the situation and can take action with pinpoint accuracy, even with the mouse and keyboard, we have everything under control at all times. This makes it intuitive and fun to experiment with our cool ninja skills like a sandbox.

However, we first have to unlock the numerous maneuvers. The more secretly and inconspicuously we do gymnastics through the levels and the more artifacts and scrolls we find, the more honor points we get. With this we can gradually buy gadgets, such as firecrackers, that distract opponents and thus make it easier to collect points. Not only are we motivated by the almost eight hours on the first run, but with the skills we have acquired we can plunge into the even crisper "New Game Plus" mode and try out other assassination methods.

Dark beauty

And as if the polished game design wasn't enough, Mark of the Ninja creates an equally polished atmosphere as a bonus, especially thanks to the stylistically perfect comic graphics. No wonder, because the developers have already proven with the two Shank games that they are simply 2D.

Of course, like every game, Mark of the Ninja also has its small problem areas. The story is only mediocre and very predictable, all characters and figures are only cliché templates and the AI opponents could have been pumped an additional portion of brain into the bulb. Nevertheless: game design, controls and presentation work so well together that these carvers hardly disturb us. If we turn up as a ninja and play around with the skills that have just been unlocked, the game will suck us into the role of shadow warrior within minutes and won't let us go anytime soon.