So, as I’m sure I’ve said many times before, I love a challenging platformer. Super Meat Boy was a masterclass in finely tuned controls and level design. Celeste had a wonderful story and again, tight controls and great level design. Obstacles were perfectly placed and they were challenging enough that perseverance and improved muscle memory would eventually see you through to the end. In my opinion these are perfect examples of how to do a tough platformer. So here comes a new challenger, Super Hyperactive Ninja from Grimorio of Games and Jandu Soft.
Set in feudal Japan, as the titular hyperactive ninja or one of his cohorts, it’s your job to stop the shogun from stealing all the caffeine. So off you go on your journey across a multitude of levels with loose Japanese influences. It’s an entertaining idea.
It posits itself as a challenging platformer from the off and it tries a few new things to shake up the genre. First off, you’re on a timer of sorts. You need to keep your character topped up with coffee otherwise you fall asleep and it’s game over. You also need coffee to enter hyperactive mode, essential for wall jumping and dispatching enemies. A quick pull of RT sees the character enter endless runner mode, which lets you jump higher and further and provided they have their back to you, you can take down your foes. Well, some of them.
Next, you can collect items that give you special skills – one puts out fires and freezes enemies, another let’s you run on water and there’s… You can also get weapons to make dealing with enemies easier. Each of the unlockable characters comes with a set of 3 specific to their character, with nine characters in total to unlock. The levels themselves are filled with money and coffee cups as well. Money allows you to buy items if your favourite character doesn’t have the required skill and the coffee cups top up your caffeine levels for hyper mode.
Finally we have the aforementioned enemies. These consist of various ninjas, monks, ghosts and other nasties. These things were the bane of my life and made the game significantly more difficult. Some have range and you need to avoid the projectiles. Some do you up close. Some even chase you. It makes the fiddly platforming sections even more tough. I can’t count the number of times a dude turned round just as I was approaching at high speed and chopped me. It breaks up the rhythm and flow of the game. And that’s kind of what irked me.
The game encourages high speed traversal of the levels with hyperactive mode hoovering up caffeine so you’re kinda on an already short timer. But then it throws up these roadblocks and you’re forced to wait for a moment. Sometimes you’ll get there with perfect platforming prowess, jump to take out the enemy and boom, he turns round. Back to the checkpoint. Flow lost, hobble through to the end. I liked that it was different at first but then they just became a pain. The constant stop start gameplay felt counter intuitive to the expectations set on the player in the first few levels. It also punishes you heavily for deaths with regards to your end rank and score. It clearly expects you to die a lot so it felt weird to lose so many points per death. Especially when trial and error quickly becomes the norm.
The platforming itself is pretty straightforward. Tap A for a short low jump, hold it to add height. If you are in hyperactive mode, jumping at a wall and tapping or holding A when you come in contact lets you wall jump. Simple. Well it would be if it reacted to my button presses. There were quite a few times I died because it just wouldn’t accept my inputs. It got frustrating at times, but not as much as the enemies littered throughout. The odd puzzle is also thrown into the mix as are boss battles.
Block pushing puzzles are spread throughout the game and this is the basis of most of the puzzling. Some hide alternate routes through levels, some let you crush unkillable enemies. The boss battles feature more of the same, or involve you having to use a specific skill to kill them. The bosses in general are pretty easy once you figure out their pattern.
Graphically the game itself is pretty basic. The sprites are nice and chunky and they emote well enough but the level design is pretty uninspired. As it’s set in Japan you can expect your typical paper walled dojos and a sprinkling of outdoor garden environments. It inoffensive in its style, but it doesn’t really have anything unique about it to make it stand out. The whole presentation looks rather soft and blurry at times as well. It really reminded me of those old flash games on Newgrounds from years ago.
Between the bouts of frustration caused by the poor controls and enemy placement, I really struggled to enjoy Super Hyperactive Ninja. There is some enjoyment to be had here as it’s got a bit of fun about the entire premise but it feels poorly executed from the off. Do yourself a favour and pick up Celeste, Ori and the Blind Forest or Super Meat Boy and give this one a miss.