Mini Ninjas Adventure is a good Kinect game. Is there a compliment more laced with poison? You've probably turned off already. You might have come here looking for a furious aggrieved review laying into the latest failure. Or you might not have realised it was a Kinect game at all, and have already tapped backspace in disgust.
Well, I'm sorry, But Mini Ninjas Adventures is a good Kinect game. And that means, necessarily, that it's a simple Kinect game. It knows the limitations within which it must, at least for now, work. And it plays cleverly inside them. This is a game of sidestepping and natural movements that don't require split-second timing - but still manage to reward skill.
Instead of assaulting you with mini-games, here there's just one increasingly nuanced game, played across a grid five across and four high. On the bottom row is our hero. His name is Hiro. You know, like Hiro, the hero in Heroes. It's a Hero thing. You can slide across the five locations in your row by sidestepping. You'll need a good width of floor open to you.
The three rows above each require a different attack to despatch the enemies that appear on them. The closest row is your sword-melee zone. Reach over your right shoulder to get out your sword, and slash away. Some enemies will have shields - you'll need to kick them first. Others will run at you with exploding barrels. Kick them into the back row, and they'll explode, taking any nearby ninja. It's reassuring to know that barrels have exploded throughout history. Perhaps the big bang that spawned the universe was just a massive red keg.
The row at that top requires your bow and arrow. Reach over your left shoulder to whip out your bow, and mime pulling back the strings to lob off a volley of arrows. It's a mime that you have to act out with some conviction - if you do a half-arsed attempt you'll be ignored. This initially made me pull a spoiled teenager "oh GOD do I HAVE TO" face. But being forced into the proper posture did some psychological trick. Doing the actions properly immediately got me into the mood. Acting like I meant it... made me actually mean it.
Between the sword and bow zones is the middle strip, where only your shurikens can reach. Hold your arms out sideways, flaps forwards, like you're feeding a pair of horses.
That's the basic recipe, which gets laced with blocks, deflects, and magic spells, and the ability to summon ninja friends. What starts off agonisingly simple, quickly develops into something that's responsive, entertaining, and utterly painless. Apart from the shuriken, which makes you feel like a flailing crufixion, the actions are completely natural. This is the first time Kinect has felt unequivocally right since The Gunstringer and Child of Eden.
Let's not go overboard with praise, just because Sidekick have got Kinect right. It's still a simple game, and it's pretty short, with 21 levels only lasting a couple of hours. That said, it's fun enough for you to want to go back and beat your own scores. And the constant yipping of the enemy Ninjas - and God, do they YIP - will drive a less-relaxed parent insane while their kid hops around, oblivious.
But this is still a pretty delightful distraction, and at a reasonable 800MP, I'd be a joyless, churlish curmudgeon with a greasy curdled soul not to recommend it.
A good reason to wave at your nodding box
- Excellent use of Kinect
- Simple but nuanced
- You never have to jump
- A little bit short
- Oh my God just stop yipping