Platforms: Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Windows, and Xbox One
If you’ve never heard of Save the Ninja Clan, then we’re in the same boat. I only decided to buy it on a whim after watching the trailer because of its $2.99 price tag and obvious Super Meat Boy influence. Little did I know that not only was it influenced by Super Meat Boy, but it out-and-out ripped off one of the best platformers of the last decade. From traps and hazards to mechanics, far too much of Save the Ninja Clan feels way too similar to Super Meat Boy to be coincidence. Hell, even two of its three boss fights are blatant copies from SMB. So while Save the Ninja Clan isn’t a particularly bad game, it set itself up for failure right out of the gate because it failed in every way to live up to the lofty expectations created by the game it wants to be so badly.
Save the Ninja Clan is a 2D side-scrolling platformer where you play as three ninjas on a quest to rescue some of their ninja brethren from some guy who also looks kind of like a ninja. I really don’t know the lore behind the game because all you get is a bare bones story that’s there to give you some sort of reason to be traversing these deathtrap laden levels. The fact that there are three ninjas is the most important aspect of the story as it leads to the game’s biggest gimmick.
Each ninja has their own special ability that will need to be used to get through certain sections. The green ninja can double jump, the blue ninja can sprint, and the black ninja can utilize brief periods of invisibility. Why they couldn’t just put all those abilities into one ninja is beyond me. Not only was implementing this separation of abilities rarely used in any kind of creative ways, but all it did was create a more convoluted system on top of a game already lacking in its controls.
Right off the top, a huge setback for controls is being unable to use the D-Pad and being forced to use the analog stick to guide your ninjas through each level. The choice to do this is a bizarre one as most platformer fans are going to instantly go to the D-Pad for control. Making things even worse is the fact that the D-Pad isn’t used for anything throughout the game.
Outside of that, the controls felt slightly off as the jumping felt stiff and imprecise. This is something you can eventually get used to, but it was a constant cause of death as new hazards were added into levels. Speaking of hazards, the “hit boxes” of where most traps would instantly kill you also felt off. There were a number of times where I felt like I was killed when I hadn’t even made contact with a saw or a fan blade. That coupled with the imprecise controls quickly led to some frustrating sections throughout the game.
Much of the frustration in a game like this comes from the trial and error nature of it. Part of the feeling of accomplishment you get from playing a tough platformer is learning specific sections of a level and putting all that you’ve learned together to make it to the end. Save the Ninja Clan actually nailed that feeling, it’s just a shame that most of the trial and error deaths came from trying to get your ninjas to control the way you wanted rather than actual good level design.
Save the Ninja Clan is broken down into three different worlds, each with 10 levels and a boss fight. Oddly enough, none of the worlds really seemed to have a specific theme. They just added in new hazards and got slightly more difficult. I managed to get through the game’s 33 levels in just a couple of hours, so there’s not a ton of content here, but for the price it isn’t too bad.
I would like to point out that while I had plenty of issues with the game, there were a few levels that were actually enjoyable to play through, so it’s not a complete waste. There are also some pretty interesting secrets to find throughout the game as well, if you have the patience.
With all that said, I can only really recommend Save the Ninja Clan to hardcore platformer fans that are hard up to get their next platforming fix and have exhausted most of their other options. Even then, I’d honestly just recommend playing through Super Meat Boy again or shelling out the extra $12 for it if you haven’t already.