App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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Every so often I find myself getting completely blindsided by an iOS release. Sometimes I go in expecting great things and instead end up with something mediocre or worse. Other times I expect the latter and end up with the former. I always enjoy stumbling upon these unexpected gems, and aside from a couple of minor quibbles I'd say Ninja Wrath definitely qualifies.
There's not a whole lot of a story to go on, it seems mostly just like ninjas being ninjas. Still, action games don't need a good story; they need action. And Ninja Wrath has that in spades. Or kunai, maybe. Each stage bombards players with a set number of enemies and tasks them with dispatching the baddies thoroughly. Once a level is completed it's also possible to jump back in for a few more challenges, including defeating all enemies within a time limit or finishing without taking more than three hits. The same goes for the boss fights. Holding it all together is a very touch-centric control scheme that lets players pull off a variety of fancy moves by tapping or swiping the attack button.
Ninja Wrath's controls are a tad unorthodox, but they work remarkably well. The basic jump/attack/throw buttons and movement stick aren't particularly noteworthy but they handle well enough. It's the gesture-specific attacks that really steal the show. Once the ninja has gained a fair number of levels he can zip back and forth across the screen with little effort, leaving a pile of coins and giblets in his wake. However all the razzamatazz is tied to a chakra meter that refills through landing blows or by holding the attack button. It keeps the system from being exploited too much and also forces players to think carefully before they expend it all on a handful of badguy fodder.
However, this is no Master Ninja. At least not yet. As responsive as the controls can be, some of Ninja Wrath's other elements can sometimes get in the way. Stand too far "up" or "down" and attacks can miss entirely, but what constitutes too far isn't very far at all. Many of the enemies, especially the bosses, also seem to have a much more forgiving time of it. And the clay soldiers in the second world are a total pain because they don't actually stagger at all when they're attacked. Finally, the bonus stages. Those bonus stages, man. They aren't fun, they can be obnoxiously difficult to complete, and they can't be skipped. Ugh.
Even with the questionable hit zones and momentum-halting extra stages, Ninja Wrath is still a ton of fun. It's a surprisingly high quality action game with a smart control scheme and lots of content. Heck, it might even satiate Ryu Hayabusa fans who've been looking for a mobile alternative.