Reviewed by Jim Short


Issue 25

Jan/Feb 87

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48k cassette 2.99

1 player
1 joystick

I've heard complaints that there are far too many martial arts games about. Fortunately, the Atari market isn't quite as saturated with them as most other computers and there is certainly room for another - particularly when it's of the quality of this latest release from Mastertronic.

NINJA - a sort of oriental Rambo - is the latest in computer heroes. He is a man alone, on a life or death mission to rescue the Princess Di-Di who is held prisoner in the mysterious Palace of Pearls. He will face many tough adversaries - who are also clever exponents of the marshal arts - as he strives to save the Princess and, in addition to this, he must gather up several idols which she has dropped and return them to her to prove his worth. Yes, it's near impossible to please a Princess these days. You risk life and limb to rescue them and they're not happy unless you woo them with a few presents as well!

Not content with having hands and feet which should be registered as lethal with the Eastern branch of Interpol, Ninja has several weapons at his disposal such as a slashing Samurai sword, spinning death stars, and a throwing dagger. To balance things up, these weapons are also granted to his opponents.

Things kick off with one of those typically oriental music scores - you know the kind I mean? - which, to my ears, sound as tuneful as a Max Bygraves LP. Nevertheless, it is catchy in a weird sort of way and sets the mood for the rest of the game. The graphics are neat and tidy with plenty of bright colours - a rare commodity in a high percentage of recent Atari games as new programmers can't seem to handle more than the regulation number of colours. Good, fast animation is probably the thing most people look for in karate games though - there's no point in having a punching, kicking, all-action Ninja if he moves around with all the agility of a rusty Dalek! - and the animation here is well up to scratch. Not quite in the same league as System 3/Epyx's 'World Karate Championships', but that's another story and another review.

NINJA scores high on playability. The key joystick moves are less complex than on most other games of this type and the difficulty level is just about right too. In the initial stages, the opponents don't put up much of a fight - a quick 'banzai' with the old sword and they crumble to dust (or 'splodge' to be more accurate) before your very eyes - but once you start having to tackle two and three of these brutes at a time you'll wonder if the Princess is worth all the hassle!

Although I can't fault the game itself, the instructions could have been better. For instance, you have to leap up through trapdoors in the ceiling to gain access to other rooms, but the instructions don't mention this. I spent ages wandering around like a one-legged Dodo on the lower levels before I accidentally stumbled across the secret of those trapdoors!

Mastertronic's games are improving with each new release. Their programmers are fast learning the subtleties of the Atari to produce top quality games at staggeringly low prices. Even at normal prices NINJA would have rated excellent value for money. At 2.99 you won't get a better bargain than this.