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Review: Space Ninja

January 28, 2009


Space Ninja is a gem of a game that combines a tried and true gameplay concept - dodging bullets with a spaceship - and some of the best feeling controls on the iPhone to date. With fantastic music, a perfunctory story, and 40 levels, this game should be in most gamer’s App libraries. Essentially all you have to do is tilt your iPhone to control your ship and avoid the bullets that, at times, fill the screen. This is harder than it sounds, but various powerups and the ability to slow time will make things a little easier.


  • Handles Like a Sports Car
Do sports cars handle well? They’re supposed to, right? I’m the antithesis of a gearhead... Anyway, make any move you want and these controls will respond like they’re an extension of your body. Other games have tilt controls, but they’re not this tight. Space Ninja’s dev had better hide his secret well.
  • Retro-Ish
Though the art style and music aren’t cloned directly from the games of decades past, there’s definitely the sense that the theme music would sound great in 8-bit. The simple, shape-y graphics remind you of the earlier days of gaming, and a little nostalgia never hurt anyone.
  • The Vastness of Space In Your iPhone
Okay, that’s ridiculous, but there are quite a few levels in the main mode, not to mention a “ski” mode and a few unique challenge levels. There’s quite a bit of content to be explored and conquered in this game.


The Good: I think the last time something so small was so epic was The Great Mouse Detective. Sure you’re just dodging bullets in a simple 2D vertical scroller, but the slow-motion feature in Space Ninja is just plain cool. It turns a stressful and difficult event like trying to squeeze your ship through a tiny space into a stressful but doable event, and one that looks exceedingly cool. They really nailed this feature and since the only penalty is related to earning awards, the only thing keeping you from using it is your own pride.

Speaking of the awards, I also dug the little stats related to each level. On the mission select menu you’re shown your attempts, failures, successes, and the maximum distance traveled for each level. You’ll earn different colored medals for each level, and the kind you get is based on how skillfully you beat the level. Adding little meta-games like this on top of the regular game is an excellent way to add replay value, and I personally can’t get enough. Ever have a video game theme get stuck in your head for days? I’m in for some of that with Space Ninja’s upbeat space-odyssey overture. The music is really the perfect icing on an already tasty cake, and I always love it when devs put together a full package. The Bad: While I appreciate the humor in Space Ninja’s directions, I’m the type who reads manuals before jumping in, who prefers to know everything one can know before beginning a game. Since I had no clue what any of the power-ups did until I picked them up, I didn’t look forward to using them and ended up not using them very often at all. I would remember I had them after dying over and over and go “oh, yeah...” Not a huge deal, I’m just weird and love reading descriptions of power-ups.


Space Ninja has got great gameplay, controls that are as responsive as anything you’d find on a console, and some pretty killer theme music. The game also boasts some very difficult levels, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending longer than you thought you would with this one. I’ve gotta recommend this one to everyone except that very narrow demographic who have PTSD-like symptoms from trying to beat Ikaruga and failing miserably. I’m a member of that group, but with weekly group meetings you can cope, and you can move on. Huh? Oh, yeah, Space Ninja was awesome, go buy it.

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