Developer: DouDou Dog Games
Price: $1.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

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

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

Ninjas. Unless pitted head-to-head with pirates, you would be hard pressed to find a more perfect protagonist for a game. Adjectives like mysterious, magical, and even stealthy have been used to describe this shadowy lot, which once again proves why designers love them so much. But having a ninja for a titular character isn’t necessarily an instant win. Hopefully the new puzzle/action game Ninja Box can manage to live up to the long legacy of awesome ninja titles that have preceded it.

Whomever decided to meld ninjas with the cutesy, mock-anime, art style prominently on display in Ninja Box, deserves a raise. The miniature on-screen avatars tootle slowly around in a way that might suggest a careful observation of their surroundings. Unfortunately, the rather dense behavior of enemies proves this theory false rather quickly. On the bright side, at least every character model oozes personality.

The core game mechanic involves helping a disoriented martial artist escape from a locked room that just so happens to be teaming with enemies. So players fight their way to freedom, right? Unfortunately this is not the case. Each stage ends when the veiled assassin manages to find and destroy the single box in a room that contains a giant lever. This switch opens a locked door to the outside, enabling his escape. The only real reason the game has combat is to acquire the star blades that are dropped by defeated adversaries, which are then used to break open the aforementioned boxes. Oh, and there are not just a few cubes in every level. In some cases there are at least a few hundred boxes that need to be demolished, all in the name of finding a glorified needle in a haystack.

Making matters worse, though combat can be accomplished using any of the four special attacks, everything still boils down to sneaking up behind an enemy and bumping into them. We are not talking hand-to-hand combat or stealth kills, either. Merely a tap of the shoulder blade dispatches cronies. That must be one hell of a pressure point!

Simply put, Ninja Box is rough around the edges. If one were to strip away the stylistic art design, what would remain is essentially “hide and go seek,” where the player simultaneously engages in exercises of trial and error. Let’s just say that it might be best if this assassin remained locked in the dojo.

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