At first glance, Atomic Ninjas looks to be one crazy and high-octane sort of game. And indeed, it does not disappoint. The action is over-the-top, colorful, and fast. The game features small, sprite-like ninjas that are hilarious and have exactly that murderous little edge to them that can’t help but remind me of Invader Zim.
Developed by Grip Games, Atomic Ninjas isn’t a game that looks to do everything. It sets its sights on just a few things and does them all pretty well. At its core, the game is meant to be played multiplayer, be it online or with friends. Essentially what you do is select a ninja (there are 8 different ones) and you enter into some form of competition with other ninjas. The game boasts a variety of fun game modes including capture the flag style matches, treasure hunts, and deathmatches, among others. There are certainly enough game modes to keep you entertained for a while, though the amount of game modes can essentially be cut in half considering they can all be played with a partner or single-player. Regardless of which you choose, the game boils down to beating up your opponents and keeping them away from you and your objectives. Much of the game’s charm, aside from the murderous ninjas, comes from its simple, group-based fun. Playing with friends gave me that same feeling of hatred you muster towards your opponents in a game of Mario Party. But don’t be fooled, this is a good thing, as it encourages a good, fiery level of competition amongst players.
As you may expect with the title, the game is both fast-paced and explosive. Jumps and movements are all swift and elongated. You’re constantly moving around, jumping from platform to platform, looking for your objectives or looking for opponents to pummel. Movements themselves are also pretty varied. Besides just jumping and running, your ninjas can have rope-like grapples to help you swing on ceiling hooks and you can even have rocket-based jetpacks to propel yourself around. Once you do find an enemy, that’s when things get vicious. Attacks in this game are not subtle at all–they’re all very in-your-face and explosive, and are definitely the root causes of any ill-will you may muster against your friends. Considering that you are generally in an arena with three other competitors, you are under constant attack. Attacks knock you back far and wide. A simple punching attack will knock you flying away, far from where you were originally. This in turn will likely fuel you with anger and frustration and make you want to get back in there and take revenge. As negative as it sounds, I found it hilariously fun how often I caught myself actively trying to get back at whoever just hit me while mumbling wishes of despair upon them.
However if there’s one thing I found legitimately frustrating about this game, it was the manner in which you direct your attacks. As with most games, you move your character using the left analog stick. The right analog, in this game, is used to switch the direction you’re facing. Naturally, what direction you face dictates what direction your attacks go in. It definitely felt awkward to switch directions using an entirely separate stick. And given how fast-paced this game is, having to stop for a half-second to switch directions often meant getting knocked hard by my opponents.
The maps you play on are surprisingly large and are all designed with bright and vivid details that contrast hilariously well with how “cartoonish” and deceptively violent the game is. Just looking at the maps is a joy and definitely kept me playing for longer sessions than I may have had originally planned for. I also found that what little writing and dialogue the game had was incredibly sassy and clever. Sometimes your ninjas make slight remarks, but they’re always funny and certainly play off Asian/ninja stereotypes. At victory, your ninja may say something like “YOU ARE DISGRACE TO YOUR FAMU-REE”. Even in the tutorial, your teacher likes to tease you when you do something wrong or hilariously belittle your accomplishments when you get them right. Sometimes during battle, your character will enter “NOOB RAGE”, a state in which your ninja just becomes really fast, powerful, and invulnerable, effectively allowing your little ninja to rage all over the map while wreaking all sorts of crazy havoc. And the voices themselves are all small yet raspy voices that add a gritty sense of humor to everything. I laughed just about every time a ninja actually said something.
The only other thing I had a problem with in the game was its music. It isn’t that the music was bad or poorly done, it was just how oddly inconsistent it was. During gameplay, music isn’t a constant in the background. A song would play, and after it would end, there wouldn’t be another song to take its place or even a loop of the same song. It would just stay quiet, the only sounds you hear being those of your ninjas attacking and moving. But then the music would kick up again, finish, and then stop again for a little bit. While it didn’t take away from the gameplay itself, it was something very odd that I couldn’t find a reason for. And given the almost-satirical stance the game takes on ninjas, I would have expected a constant source of music to be adding in to the atmosphere. All the same, the music itself was generally pretty well done and added a fun feel to the battles while it was there.
Nevertheless, the pros definitely outweigh the cons in this crafty little title by Grip Games.