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Ninja Blade

In action game lets you dress up in pink pinstripes before carving up hordes of gruesome mutants, you know it doesn't take itself seriously. Ninja Blade is such a game, but it's so ridiculously over the top, so rambunctiously insane, that it's hard not to get a total kick out of it. It's an uneven product, both technically troublesome and derivative to the bone. And yet Ninja Blade maintains a breakneck pace while throwing you into one preposterous scenario after another until you need to catch your breath, simply because the onscreen action is so absurdly dazzling--or because you're laughing too hard. So don't expect deep combat, extreme visual prowess, or a finger-breaking challenge. Instead, just prepare for lots of good, frivolous fun that will keep you entertained in spite of some technical flaws.

You should also prepare for more memorable moments than you can shake a katana at. Ken, the star of Ninja Blade, is so sensationally acrobatic that he makes Dante's antics in Devil May Cry seem practically mundane. During the course of the game, he'll sky-surf on missiles, perform gravity-defying stunts on a motorcycle, and ride a wrecking ball to glory, among many other gymnastic feats that would make even Ninja Gaiden's Ryu green with envy. These glitzy, cinematic scenes are laughably ludicrous, and yet they're an absolute hoot to watch and bound to get your pulse pounding. However, you aren't relegated to being a simple observer. Most of this visual insanity is accompanied by quick-time button events, which means that you'll need to keep your eyes glued to the screen even when you'd rather than sit back for a breather. A close-up of Ken's keen eye signals these events, so they'll never catch you off guard--and should you miss a button press, the scene will rewind (a cool-looking effect) and let you try again. Unfortunately, Ninja Blade's QTEs are all too frequent, taking up a huge chunk of gameplay time and all but requiring you to use a controller (hammering on keys and mouse buttons isn't very satisfying). These are fine-looking QTEs, but as well implemented as they are, the game relies on them so often that they become tedious after a while.

And then you have those unlockable costumes, a common extra found in these types of action games, but delivered here in an uncommonly hysterical manner. You can dress Ken up as an evil ninja and scowl while you play if you prefer, but for a curiously ridiculous treat, don the clown costume and mess around with its color scheme. Such a look doesn't befit a proper ninja, of course, but then again Ken does prefer to leap around Tokyo with flair, so unless you insist on high levels of seriousness in your ninja games, you'll enjoy kicking bad-boy butt in purple paisley. But even if you keep Ken looking prim and proper, Ninja Blade is so much fun you'll want to return once you've vaulted your way through the eight or nine hours it takes to complete it.

Even if the amount of content here doesn't rival what you can find in the best action games, Ninja Blade still delivers plenty of boisterous entertainment. This is derivate fun, delivered with panache and a touch of lunacy. While it suffers from a few too many technical flaws, Ninja Blade is still a blast to play.



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