Save the Ninja Clan is one of the latest releases from recently prolific publisher, Sometimes You. They publish and port many games developed by other studios in addition to their own games. At the very least, they offer up a wide variety of experiences and Save the Ninja Clan is their take on the brutally difficult sub-genre of platformer games made famous by “I Wanna be the Guy” and “Super Meat Boy.”
What do I do?
You will die… a lot. That’s how these nails-hard platformers are designed and it’s no different here. The basic idea is that they present you with the tools necessary to overcome any obstacle from the beginning, but you need to learn to master the physics, controls, and timing to pull it all off. Every failure is a learning opportunity. You either recognize why or how you died and learn to do it better next time, or die repeatedly until you do figure it out. Thankfully, this means that you are responsible for your own deaths and they never feel cheap. Unfortunately, this also means that all of the punishment you have to endure has to be balanced out by fun or a sense of accomplishment.
Can I even progress, bro?
Save the Ninja Clan fails to provide you much of a sense of accomplishment. This is actually found primarily by the ability to access almost every level from the start of the game. You can boot the game up and choose whatever door it is that you want and this will lead to a new challenge. If you fail too much at any given level, you can just move to a different level and try it again. This sounds all well and good, but the game suffers for it.
Most games use their level progression as a clever tutorial. Every action, obstacle, and pit is a means of getting you familiar with the controls and physics, while also helping you to develop the skills necessary to overcome even greater obstacles further in the game. The lack of a feel of progression brought on by the ability to just choose a level at will makes it seem as though the devs sat back and just slapped together levels based on a dartboard.
“This level will feature…levers that…
fling you into…
whirling saw blades that are turning around…
moving spring boards….
Instead of introducing each of those elements to you in the earlier stages, and then slowly adding in one more element and a clever use or variation of that element.
Does it at least control well?
So, when it comes to platformers, especially those of the intentionally difficult variety, controls are essential. Save the Ninja Clan comes through with flying colors here. The jump is a little floaty at first, but you get used to it fairly quickly. Most importantly, the floaty jump is consistent. When you press the A button to jump, you know exactly how far in any given direction that you’re going to move, and you can adjust that with momentum. The biggest drawback of the control scheme is that you are restricted to only using the analog stick. While the Nintendo Switch might be among the worst Nintendo dpads in existence, even the direction buttons on the joycon would have been preferable to using the analog stick in a 2d platformer.
Is there anything interesting or new?
You can speed up or slow down the level’s speed. This is like a difficulty slider, as it just does exactly what it sounds like it does. Obviously, the faster you make it, the more you have to adjust your controls to overcome the speed difference. It actually starts you off at 115% instead of 100%, and 100% is the lowest that you can go.
Save the Ninja Clan – worth the journey?
I’d say that if you are into hard platformers, this is right up your alley. However, it is definitely more worth waiting for a sale than it is an immediate must buy. If you like your platformers to be well-designed and rich with clever level layouts and a sense of pride at your accomplishments, look elsewhere.