Developer: Alfa Production
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

The minds behind Golden Ninja HD say their game is an “experience not found in the typical ninja game.” What is the “typical” ninja game though? Is it the stealthy Tenchu series or the action-packed Ninja Gaiden franchise? This game is certainly nothing like those. Whatever the case is, Golden Ninja is an addictive, satisfying platformer that happens to feature a ninja.

When his girlfriend is stolen by dark forces, the titular golden ninja will literally throw himself after her in an attempt to get her pack. Players move the little spherical shinobi towards the exit by flinging him across gaps and over obstacles. There’s a bit of a learning curve at first as players will want to drag back their finger before flinging like in Angry Birds. However, the key is to simply tap in what direction the ninja should leap. This is especially crucial in underwater segments or in special flying zones. The game is fairly forgiving though as deaths only lead to Braid-style rewinds to the last checkpoint. Players can also move the camera and view their shot trajectory before committing to any moves. Once the controls are grasped, they feel precise and just plain fun to use. After all, who doesn’t love flinging stuff?

However, while moving the golden ninja throughout his world feels great, the world itself unfortunately can’t quite match that same level of enjoyment. On one hand, stages are well-designed and feature plenty of enemies and items to interact with like swinging vines, bounce pads and grind rails. Better yet, they all feel organically woven into the environment, not shoved in for gameplay’s sake. The problem is though, in the relatively short amount of time it takes to conquer the first world, players will still feel like they’ve only seen a handful of original ideas. There’s a point where levels just seem like remixed versions of each other. To be fair though, only the first world and an infinite star tower are included in the free initial download. The other two worlds, which may be filled with bold and fresh new gameplay concepts, must be bought with real money or earned through weird, online social programs.

It’s pretty easy to forget those issues though when just appreciating how great the game looks and sounds. The visuals have a whimsical, painterly look reminiscent of the amazing Rayman Origins. Meanwhile, the music is calm and serene and if players still don’t like it they can just listen to their own songs instead, always a nice option.

The best games on the App Store completely rebuild their genres to work with touch controls. In that regard Golden Ninja HD is an absolute platforming success. While lacking a little ambition, this free sample makes a strong first impression.

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