16th Oct2017

‘Ninja Shodown’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Rupert Harvey

ninja-shodown-screen

Not to be confused with the legendarily terrible Flash game Ninja Showdown, Ninja Shodown is an appealing, super-fast-paced hack ‘n’ slash party game from UK-based developer Bitmap Bureau.

The controls are simple: jump, sword-swipe, shuriken and special. The shoulder buttons also give you access to a virtually useless block move, as well as an amusingly reckless dodge manoeuvre, which sees your ninja flip hurriedly across the screen, usually to his death… Death is common in Ninja Shodown. Indeed, in terms of its crisp pixel graphics and hilariously oversensitive controls, it’s reminiscent of Super House of Dead Ninjas, which was equally over the top in its splatter violence and high challenge.

It goes like this: Select your ninja and give him a name; drop into a single-screen room with various platforms and doors; slaughter anything that enters the room. Bigger rooms might zoom in and out, and have different arrangements of platforms, but the gameplay stays the same.

The sword is your infinite ammo weapon, although its reach is limited – a potentially lethal limitation in a game where simply touching an enemy is an instant death. Shurikens are more plentiful, although need to be topped up. Then there are the specials, which range from molotovs to grenade launchers. You’ll soon learn that they are just as deadly to yourself as they are to your foes.

I’ll say one thing upfront: Ninja Shodown is not worth the asking price if you intend only to play solo. The two single-player modes are Arcade (progressing through increasingly challenging levels and increasingly complex maps) and Infinite (hordes of harder and harder enemies keep coming until you’re dead).

Where the game really comes alive is in multiplayer. Both the modes above are available to play in co-op, and there is also a ridiculous Versus mode, which offers immediate access to all the maps, and the ability to tweak the rules (e.g. fight against the clock or fight for points) to suit your needs. It’s here that the game is at its most riotously entertaining.

Because Ninja Shodown is not a game to be taken seriously. The controls can be grasped but are too twitchy to offer full mastery, and the unvaried enemies are as dumb and robotic as Pacman ghosts, meaning the campaign can be a repetitious and lonely experience. It’s only with the injection of human fallibility – and hilarious human incompetence – that the game really comes alive.

Of course, the Switch’s Joy-cons make it ideal for quickfire couch matches. However, one drawback with the Switch version is some minor slowdown during multiplayer matches, specifically where the screen must zoom to keep all players visible. It’s not game-breaking but there is noticeable judder, both in handheld and docked modes. Hopefully a future patch will rectify this.

Reminiscent of the multiplayer mayhem of Towerfall, Ninja Shodown is a hugely enjoyable game for those interested in a chaotic party game. It is a satisfying and intense co-op experience, and a friendship-shattering deathmatch. But if you’re flying solo, maybe give it a miss.

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