App Reviewed on: iPad
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At first glance, 1-bit ninja might appear to be a cheap Mario clone from the Gameboy days, but after some quality time with the title I can say it's far from a knock-off. While the game's graphics and platforming elements do pay homage to the classics, 1-bit Ninja is a truly unique and rewarding experience. The premise of the game is to get ninja (a little pixel character) from one side of each level to the other and jump onto a flag pole before time runs out. I know it sounds familiar, but there's a catch. Ninja can only run one way, and that's quite a handicap. Along the way ninja must collect "bits" (similar to coins in Mario) and stomp on bad guys to achieve the ultimate high score.
The game may sound simple, but it's depth and challenge become apparent very quickly. Not only are players limited by the direction ninja can travel, but there are also hidden passages laced throughout each level that can only be revealed by rotating the camera. With a simple finger gesture the 2D environment can be rotated to reveal a 3D view of the level. This adds a layer of strategy to the game that often caused me to run the clock down searching for secrets. Fortunately there are two play modes: a free play that allows players to beat each level at their leisure with infinite lives, and an OSP mode (old school play) that lets players build up high scores. The catch is OSP mode limits players to a traditional amount of lives.
Beating the levels is challenging enough with all of the deadly pits and enemies, but unlocking 3D and free camera mode is what separates the men from the boys. Each level has five "big bits" that are extremely tricky to obtain. Thankfully, ninja has access to springs at various points in the levels that allow him to change direction, as well as something called ninja potion that offers temporary invincibility. Free look and 3D mode are both unlocked by collecting the five "big bits" on each particular level. There's also a nifty replay feature that allows players to capture a video of their glorious triumph over a level. As of now there doesn't seem to be an easy way to upload these videos, but it would be a great addition in a future update.
1-bit Ninja might borrow elements from former classics, but I think it is only to pay tribute to a golden age of gaming. The creative graphics and incredible soundtrack were obviously painstakingly created to incite a sense of nostalgia for fans of retro gaming, and even though the game may look and sound familiar, it is a new experience. The game's difficulty might be a turn off for some, but true fans of old school platformers will feel right at home with 1-bit Ninja. With four worlds (five levels each) and unlimited replay value, 1-bit Ninja is a worthwhile purchase for old schoolers, new schoolers, and anyone else looking for a challenging retro platformer.
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