Super House of Dead ninjas
Super House of Dead ninjas is the full release version of a flash game by the same name published on the Adult Swim website.
Like the flash version, the steam release is developed by MegaDev, an indie development team known for making several successful flash titles, such as One Man and his Dinosaur.
The game is an intensely fast paced action platformer presented in a pleasingly well done retro style. This puts the player in mind of a combination of old school action games. It’s like a combination of Prince of Persia, Castlevania, Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros, combining the fast paced action and hellish difficulty of the first titles, with the equally fast paced death-trap-filled platforming elements of the latter. Add to this the fact that the tower dungeon you explore each time is procedurally generated and you have the makings of an incredible game.
However, before I go into that, I feel I should mention something that shouldn’t be a huge deal, and yet for some reason is. The thing I’m referring to is the fact that the main character of the game is in fact a female ninja. Now, on it’s own that’s surprising enough (seriously, name 2 games that feature a female ninja protagonist), as when we say ninja you usually think of guys in black, but the real surprise is how Megadev have handled it. The character is an absolute badass, and until it’s pointed out, the gender of the main character is not actually that easy to determine. Until you read the accompanying (included) comic, you really don’t get any clues. It’s refreshing these days to see a female lead, especially in an action game, that isn’t overtly sexualised and is just a simple sword-wielding epitome of badassery.
The aim of the game is to descend the tower from the top floor to reach and defeat the deamonic boss lying in wait on the bottom floor. To do this, you’ll have to navigate the hundreds of randomly generated floors, avoid countless deadly traps and defeat an army of zombies, deamons and ninjas. Fortunately, you too are a ninja, and your ninja skills, weapons and magic are more than up to the challenge.
Each time you venture into the tower, you take with you a selection of weapons, explosives and magic to help you on your quest. However, even a ninja can be laid low by enemy attacks and traps so you have to be incredibly careful. You have five lives by default, and you’re able to unlock more through in game actions, but you do die easily. Touching an enemy, projectile or trap results in your death, which means you need to plan your route carefully if you want to progress safely. Unfortunately, you don’t always have the option to do this, as to add to the difficulty, you’re playing on a timer. If you don’t progress enough to reach a time reset in 30 seconds, Death Itself is summoned. This is probably not good, but I’ll leave the fun of finding out what it actually does to you.
In addition to the procedurally generated nature of the game, Super House of Dead Ninjas keeps things interesting with a series of unlockables, including new weapons, traps and magic. You can also unlock extra power-ups which, once unlocked have a chance of appearing in game in all subsequent runs.
This game takes the relatively worn out idea of another ninja/zombie game and actually makes it interesting again, with tight controls, a hilarious commentator that has no qualms insulting you when you die (although you can turn the insults off if you’re faint of heart), and absolutely ridiculous levels of difficulty (blind drops into pits of spikes, anyone?), and you end up with a title you both love and hate at the same time.
Unlike other frustration simulators, this game is actually fair, and it’s obvious when playing that your deaths are your fault. This actually makes you want to come back and try again, improving your skills to do better every time.
Most importantly, the game feels awesome. Dodging a spike trap with your grappling hook to piledrive onto the head of a rampaging rabid monkey, backflipping over an enemy throwing knife to unleash a barrage of mystical tornadoes, or beheading your enemies with the grim reaper’s own scythe… it’s epic. Defiantly a contender for Kung-Fu badass simulator of they year.
Unfortunately, it’s not all great. The game does a distinctly poor job of explaining things. While the basic tutorial, consisting of the first couple of tower floors does explain the basic controls, everything else is left up to you to find out. Until 2 hours into the game, I was totally unaware of a couple of key mechanics (Super Jumping and the ability to hang on walls), until I found them out completely by accident. This would be acceptable, if it was only certain mechanics, however the problem extends to the unlock system. To unlock the upgraded katana, you have to “defeat a minion using only your sword”. That’s great and all, but what’s a minion? Nowhere I can see actually explains that it is infact a boss monster you have to kill to fulfil the requirements.
This could be a deliberate design decision made by the developers to encourage trial and error to uncover new information about the game, but it can be frustrating, especially if you have your heart set on a particular weapon. I want the RPG, but I have no idea how to “rescue 50 fairy folk” to get it.
However, this is a minor complaint and when weighed against the rest of the game, isn’t enough for me to not recommend it.
Gameplay and Controls – The game controls very well, both with controller and keyboard. All keys are rebindable, and you can customise your layout to your own preferences. Gameplay wise, as I said above it’s very impressive, putting you in mind of classic games, while running very smoothly on modern systems. 80/100
Sound and Music – The sound assets are great, the games music is again, retro styled, with a very upbeat feel to it. Of course, the musical scores and sound assets contain homages to other classic games. The frog enemies have the same ‘boop’ sound a Mario has when he jumps! 80/100
Graphics – The graphics are done in a very impressive retro style, with levels putting you in mind of the classic games it is obviously referencing. Certain enemies also continue this trend. However, this is not a bad thing, as the game wears its inspirations on its sleeve but does not directly copy anything. 80/100
Story/immersion/replay-ability – Arguably the weakest aspect of the game, I can’t rate this too highly as the story aspect of the game is, like most games of this type, practically non-existent. The game comes with a short companion comic, but that’s it for story and immersion. Replay-ability is another story, as the nature of the game as well as it’s unlocks and progression system keeps you coming back for more. 60/100
Final Score – Very impressive game, the retro art style and tight controls makes it very compelling to play, and I’d recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind the frustration of dying over and over before you start to improve. 75/100
Release date – 18th Feb 2013
Genre – Action Platformer, Indie
Platform – Steam
Watch The Trailer Here