Ninjin: Clash of Carrots is an 2D action game that feels a bit like 90s beat-em-ups such as Final Fight, blended with an Endless Runner, with a bit of RPG progression thrown in. It’s certainly an interesting mix of genres, but does it work? Well, yes and no.
Let’s start with the story. This is the tale of a Shogun who steals all the carrots in a village and it’s up to 2 ninjas from said village to track him down and get back their carrots. Very simple premise and nothing we haven’t seen before, but what wins the day is the humor on display here. The characters may all be crude 2D pixel art, but their personalities ooze out in all of their dialog. This game doesn’t take itself too seriously and each character is written comedic. Characters will interrupt one another, think out loud, and even poke fun of video game tropes. For example, one boss gets demoted to standard enemy because he fails and sure enough, he appears more frequently as a standard enemy past that level. That’s probably one of the greatest strengths this game has going for it.
Another highlight is the RPG progression I mentioned earlier. There’s no experience or leveling, but there is a fun weapon system. Each time you finish a level you earn carrots which serve as this game’s currency. You can use these in the shop to purchase new weapons, accessories, and throwing stars. Weapons come in several classes (Standard, Spear, Knife, and Heavy), several sizes (Small, medium, and large), and several shapes. They also have different attack power, different critical hit ratings, and some have elemental properties. Accessories will give you things like more health, more stamina, longer combo meters, etc. and you can equip any 3 at a time. Throwing stars also have different stamina costs, damage outputs, and other bonus stats like being able to bounce or return to you. These items could also be found randomly during stages so if are having problems with a stage, try a different weapon set and you may find victory. The shop also contains some cosmetic options if you like to dress up your character, but I didn’t really bother messing around with that.
Now for the gameplay, which isn’t without its share of problems. Each stage has you dealing with several waves of enemies that increase in difficulty as you progress. The amount of enemy types is impressive yet sometimes there’s so many enemies on screen at once it’s hard to formulate a plan. While you’re dealing with each wave, you and the enemies are always running forwards. You can move around the screen, but you can only swing your main weapon facing forward. This makes attacking enemies behind you (and there will be plenty behind you) more difficult but not impossible. You can throw your throwing stars in any direction which works well. Just use the right analog to point and fire. You can also dash around the room with B or press Y and B to dash with your blade out. You can do this behind you to not only damage enemies in that direction, but to place yourself behind those enemies to strike them. This all works on paper but in action it gets crazy. Sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating, but always very repetitive. When facing bosses, you stop running and can now move and attack in any direction. My thoughts just linger on why the whole game wasn’t like this as it would make it slightly more enjoyable.
The game itself is broken into several worlds with many levels each. There’s also a bonus challenge that’s an endless mode for unique weapons where you face off as many waves as you can survive starting with the basic equipment. In addition, there’s a two player mode which I didn’t get to test out and an online mode where you can tackle stages with a partner but I couldn’t test this out as the game never connected with another player. It’s a nice idea but with no one playing, it’s sadly pointless.
Ninjin: Clash of Carrots is fun, especially in shorts bursts, but nothing terribly groundbreaking. If you catch it on sale, it’s worth a purchase. If you enjoy these types of games, it’s worth playing for the humor alone. Otherwise you can skip it. With a bit of tweaking and a little more substance there could be a must play title here — maybe if there’s a sequel.
[Review code provided by developers/publishers for press purposes.]