House of Dead Ninjas Game

House of Dead Ninjas – Arcade action fun with ninjas and a whole load of stylish pixels

Don’t Take It Literally

If we’re going to take the title literally, then playing something called ‘House of Dead Ninjas’ doesn’t really sound all that enticing. In my mind, the title throws up an image of a standard 3-bedroom semi-detached property in Surrey surrounded by police tape, full of shurikens lodged in the walls and deceased shinobi warriors littering the floor: what a massacre. On the other hand, popping the word “ninja” into pretty much any sentence is going to grab my attention almost as much as the words “super”, “mega”, or “ultra”, so I had myself a little almost-dilemma in wondering whether to actually bother with the game or not. Trusting my questionable instincts, I decided that the prospect of ninjas or at least some ninja-related happenings was too good to miss out on (and a concept superior eve to Paladog) and got stuck into what turned out to be some swiftly-paced action-arcade gameplay with hints of gaming nostalgia that hit me right in the childhood memories.

Descent Into Gladness

I may be prone to reaching for tenuous and often grammatically-incorrect puns and wordplay in my reviews (gladness rhymes with madness; give me a shiny medal) but I’m convinced that this one is a keeper since the gameplay truly is a downwards-progressing affair in the very literal sense. The format involves you, a tiny, low-resolution ninja character attempting to navigate a series of platforms by descending through holes in them in order to get to the bottom. Use the directional arrow keys to control the ninja’s movement and tap the upwards arrow twice to perform a double jump; you also have a sword, shurikens, and bombs at your disposal which are used by pressing Z, X and C respectively. Quantities of the bombs and shurikens are limited and can be increased by picking them up along the way; your health is also finite, and therefore dying five times ensures that you are returned to the top of the level.

A further element of pressure is also added with the inclusion of a great, big timer that counts down in the corner of the screen, which also knocks off a life if you allow the seconds to run down to zero: just think Countdown but with a lower level of cognitive thought and more stabby ninjas throwing shurikens and small ACME-style bombs all over the place. Items can be picked up such as time increases and more shurikens/bombs, as well as extra lives to make things a little easier 

Grand Design

Undoubtedly the most distinctive feature of the game is its design, which takes the form of an 8-bit style similar to games of classic Sega/Nintendo/GameBoy consoleswith the old-school, lively sounds and music to match. The textures and illustrations are all extremely simplistic and pixelated, but purposely so, and the interface is dotted with numbers and icons that cry out Super Mario (just look at the ridiculously large numbers that surround the health bar at the top of the screen.)

The game somehow manages to perfectly capture the feeling of a time when remote controls had actual wires and Mario had just qualified as a full-on plumber but instead decided to pursue a career in princess rescuing. The game even has a fully-fledged mock-up of an instruction manual including some tongue-in-cheek safety warnings and some actually-useful information such as the storyline and the controls; this is most definitely a nice touch that gives the game a certain stylish authenticity that many imitators of the nostalgic SNES style fail to accomplish.

Not Your Average Ninja Experience

Megadev and Adult Swim are yet again responsible for title of brilliance that borrows from so many different styles that it seems almost like a wonderful Frankenstein of genres, which is what makes the thing so darned fun to play and invoking some pleasant nostalgia in the process. The descending platform format is reminiscent of Falldown, only with Super Mario-like graphics and Shinobi-eqsue style of attack. The game proudly shuns complexity where many flash games would attempt to clumsily embrace it (and fail), and as a result, the game can be instantly picked up and played by anyone, though mastering the art of not failing miserably can take a bit of practice. What are you waiting for? Learning not to fail miserably at simple tasks is what flash gaming is all about!

80/100