There’s no doubt in our minds that 2009’s Mini Ninjas was one of the most underrated games of the generation. Cute characters, some great belly laughs, and solid action-adventure was the order of the day. Unfortunately, the game was pretty much overlooked. Disappointingly for fans, Mini Ninjas Adventures is a Kinect-only spin-off that provides little depth, rather than a solid extension of the IP.
And even more disappointingly – and also somewhat predictably - the terribly repetitive nature of the game is almost enough to threaten to rip any sort of enjoyment out of it. The long and the short of the proposition is that you play as the star of the franchise, Hiro, and he has to take on waves and waves of angry attackers as they attempt to prevent his progress. Armed with a crossbow, a shield, and a sword, you have to take the swings, make the blocks, and fire the arrows using pretty close one-to-one control.
Early on, gameplay is slow at best, with opponents rarely offering much of a challenge. This leads to a feeling of boredom that the game tries to stave off later on by providing more puzzle-based attack patterns. Do you attack the enemies on the left who need to be separated from their shield before you can strike them, or do you take a potshot at the archer at the back of the playfield, who threatens to take you out from afar? It does add a little variation, and the wrong decision can be the difference between life and death, but it isn’t enough to make the gameplay offering anything like compelling.
Control-wise, Mini Ninjas Adventures appears to be relatively smooth. Shield blocks and strikes work well, but when it comes to using your bow and arrow – and switching to it from your sword, for that matter – the trouble begins. To switch weapons, you need to reach back over your shoulder. Easy enough, but a lot of the time, the Kinect sensor will invariably decide that you’re actually trying to take a swing, rather than switch weapons. Sometimes this is fine, but in the heat of battle, you could find yourself having to restart and plough through the level from the start as an opportunist’s attack takes you down. When the game provides a maximum of three hours of playing time, you really don’t need that sort of glaring error staring you right in the face.
Being fair, the developers at Side-Kick have recreated the style of the original game relatively well. The problem is that without the freedom of movement and lashings of comedic effects of that first game, Mini Ninjas Adventures is a hollow shell that feels for all the world like something of a cash-in.