Android App Review: Dead Ninja Mortal Shadow

What’s spookier than a ninja? A dead ninja, obviously, and although adding the words ‘Mortal Shadow’ is basically meaningless it all adds to that air of Serious Ninja Drama in this side-scrolling platform game.

You play as the titular ninja, sneaking around forests and towns, murdering guards without being seen. If you’ve played a video game with ninjas in it before you’re probably familiar with the set-up.
The controls are pretty basic – you tap the screen where you want your ninja to go and he’ll run and jump to get there. Tap a guard and he’ll go in sword first.

The controls are responsive enough, although as someone who grew up on consoles rather than touch screens I’ll always prefer to control my character’s movements directly.

While you should generally be suspicious of a game set in feudal Japan that has graffiti-style fonts in its menus, the actual game itself has a nice consistency of style.

Everything is black and grey silhouettes, with just the occasional slash of red as you take out a guard. Visually it borrows heavily from Limbo (which, if you haven’t played it, then you should because it’s excellent) – and to be honest, saying it ‘borrows heavily’ is generous.

What I mean is ‘completely steals all of its aesthetic’ – if you gave the kid from Limbo a sword and fewer puzzles to solve, you’d be playing this game. So Dead Ninja gets no points for originality, but if you’re going to steal at least they’re stealing from the best.

The other obvious reference when it comes to stealthy platform ninja games in the Tenchu series, and again Dead Ninja borrows a lot (but so does every other stealthy platform ninja game, so I’m not going to judge it too harshly for that).

The music does a good job of keeping up the tension, and the sound effects are minimal but effective. What the game might lack in inspiring ideas, it makes up for with its well executed style. For a free app this game looks and sounds good. I don’t mind gutting generic cliché NPCs when they’re silhouetted so nicely.

In short: Dead Ninja Mortal Shadow = Limbo + Tenchu = less than the sum of its parts, but a fun combination nonetheless. Derivative but entertaining.

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