Kunin - Ninja in Training: high flying, sword swinging addiction

Kunin screenshot

Released today for iPhone and iPad users is the newest member of the "ninja cutting things up" family of games, Kunin - Ninja in Training. In the game, our little ninja perches on a single stalk of bamboo in the middle of a misty lagoon, while unseen folks throw all manner of blades at him, including throwing-stars, throwing-knives, scythes, which the little ninja must jump up to fend off with his sword, or at least avoid being hit by. The process is brutally addictive.

Part of the success of this game is the simplicity. You touch either side of the screen and your ninja will jump. He can actually jump upwards 4 times, before descending back to his bamboo perch. You touch the right side of the screen, he look/slashes right, and the same thing for the left. That is the entirety of the controls. The ninja only jumps straight up, so there's nothing to consider, outside of "is the danger on the left or the right?" and to keep moving. If you park on the bamboo too long, it will sink into the lagoon and then you're all wet (aka dead).

Another major success for this game is the use of sound and music. The backing track is a percussive, up-tempo, and (naturally) very Asian and appropriate to a game about ninjas. The sound effects, meanwhile, are mixed very loud and impactful, making the game even more stimulating and intense. I highly recommend experiencing this game with headphones, instead of your device's internal speakers. The music and sound effects come together occasionally, with each successful strike by your ninja being accompanied by a melodic tone that fits into the soundtrack. This was a particularly nice touch. The game offers unlimited lives (though your score does return to zero), and the music is not interrupted between tries. This only adds to the addictiveness of the game.

Kunin screenshot

Besides the dangerous objects, magical scrolls are also thrown back and forth, which help our ninja in various ways. Some scrolls are worth points, which earn you medals at the end of each turn. Some scrolls give you a boost in "overdrive" which makes you jump higher. Best of all the scrolls, are the scrolls that turn all the dangerous projectiles into harmless rice balls.

The pace of play is very fast and requires full concentration and timing, or you will die very quickly. The game starts awarding you with wooden medals after 10 points, and continues up into the thousands, eventually awarding medals made of pearl and unobtainium. The game offers other awards for various accomplishments, such as the "Bushi Master," awarded if you can stay scoreless for 25 seconds. Because your ninja automatically strikes any danger it faces, this is particularly challenging.

One of the obvious drawbacks with this game is that, simply put, it is a ninja game. Everybody loves ninjas, but a simple search for the word "ninja" in the App Store will illustrate how unoriginal it is to create a game, in which a ninja hits things with a sword. Again, it is awesome to be a ninja and to hit things with a sword, but to call the idea "saturated" would be grossly understated. That said, this game is so fun, and so well delivered, that the lack of creativity on the concept side of things is eclipsed by the playability, replayability, and general excellence of the whole package.

Kunin - Ninja in Training, which is free in the App Store, is highly recommended. Controls are simple enough for anyone. It looks and sounds great. It is challenging to master, but doesn't require mastery to be enjoyed. It can entertain for as short or as long as you want; a regular turn is usually less than 10-15 seconds. Be warned, though, that it is hard to put down once you begin playing. This game is well executed and seriously addictive.