By: Jeff Cater
Developed by Grip Games is a new side-scrolling arena brawler by the name of Atomic Ninjas. First lesson taught is that you should have multiple people watching over big, red buttons at atomic power plants. Second lesson is that ninjas sparkled with radiation are pretty bad-ass, and they’re a pretty safe topic to make a game about, too.
As with most side-scrolling arena fighters, your left thumb will do all your legwork and your right thumb will fine tune your attacks. Now, seemingly clumsy at first, your character’s secondary ability is bound to L1 and the attacks are set to R1. It’s not immediately comfortable or familiar, as the face buttons go largely unused. It’s really the best layout to play the game effectively, however, only lifting your thumbs when absolutely necessary. It also helps out that all of the controls are immediately responsive, and that makes the learning curve a bit less treacherous.
Atomic Ninjas is highly stylized with a bright, almost Tron-like neon approach. While there aren’t many stages, they do have a variety of environments that all retain the neon-like visuals intended by the developers. Whether they’re glowing platforms flying through space or the magma furnaces near the Earth’s core, the stages look superb when combined with the chaos of ninja action, which is also well done.
Characters don’t have loads of animation sequences, but really they aren’t called for here. All of the ninjas are pudgy cubes that are fun to watch fly about on rockets or bound around the stage Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style. Special effects are pretty solid, and the game runs at a consistent clip at all times. Combine that with everything else and it’s a nice visual treat whether you’re playing on a giant HD set or your Vita.
The soundtrack of the game is sadly pretty generic, but that’s usually the case with brawlers like this. It’s not about the music, maaaaan! Every other sound is effective and fun, full of explosions, guttural ninja yelps and the like. Most of the time the audio is moot anyway because you and your friends will be laughing and screaming at one another, which actually adds to the sound. If you make a lot of noise playing a game, I’m pretty sure that counts, too.
Atomic Ninjas is strictly a multiplayer affair. However, while there’s no single-player campaign you may play against bots (which are actual bots, not ninjas; it’s not really something you should try) if you’re not up to playing online or having friends over, but that’s when the game really shines.
Unfortunately, you’ll likely end up only playing it locally because it’s damn near impossible to find a full game or even assemble one. This seems to be a problem plaguing most arcade releases these days, and basing your game solely around multiplayer is a giant risk. Many haven’t made time for Atomic Ninjas yet, but as I said it’s at its best when you’ve got some buddies screaming at your TV set.
Once you all settle in and select a character, you may choose a combat style and special ability. There are three combat styles like shurikens, hand-to-hand, and a somewhat telekinetic force power, and six special defensive abilities to blend them with. These defensive skills are just methods of character movement, such as having a large rocket tied to your back to fly around or if you have a grappling hook to swing around edges and get the drop on foes.
It may take a bit to find a combo that will work out for you, but it’s there and the road to finding it is fun. Plus, the game offers several different competitive modes for flavor, but none truly out of the norm for any multiplayer games these days. You can also level up and unlock variants on currently available ninjas.
While Atomic Ninjas suffers from the same problem most smaller games do with a barren online community, that’s really the only thing it suffers from. It’s a fun, visually appealing beat ’em up romp that you and your friends can easily get into and blast a few hours away. Grip Games has a fine product, dragged down only by the bots and the non-existent online community, so if you frequently have friends over it’s a worthwhile purchase.