Sunday 24 November 2013

Clumsy Ninja - Review

I don't generally go for this sort of game because it is, for all intents and purposes, a freemium game which means that it's free to play but the deeper you get into it, the more likely you'll have to pay - and pay a lot - in order to achieve a new level or purchase a new item.
Like most other games of this type you can earn money and gems as you play, but I can see that it isn't going to be fast enough, especially for the gems, and pretty soon the lure of the credit card in-app purchase may beckon.

High five!
So if you're going to give this game a try and you're on a tight budget - and I strongly urge you to do so - make sure you disable in-app purchases on your device, especially if you're going to hand the game over to your child who may not realise they're spending real money as they play.

If you don't know how to do this, start by going to the Settings app, tap on General and select Restrictions. In order to 'Enable Restrictions' you'll have to create a 4-digit pin. Just make sure it's not the same as the one you use to unlock your device (you have that set up as well, right?), then turn "In-App Purchases" off.

Ok. Now we're ready to check Clumsy Ninja, and it's amazing. The app is a universal one, which means it'll work on your iPhone, iPod touch and iPad perfectly.

You find yourself in a courtyard with stalls on the right and outside living quarters on the left, and in the middle is your clumsy ninja. He's clumsy because he's inexperienced and it's your job to help him improve his skills.

You do this by giving him tasks to perform and you're helped in realising what to do thanks to the task diary, lower left of the interface which tells you what to do next (although you're also free to experiment as you please). Completing each task earns your ninja experience, money and the occasional gem.

Lead him by the hand
This isn't remarkable. In fact countless freemium games work in the same way.

What makes this game worth playing is the character himself and how you interact with him. You can touch him, tickle him, give him a high five, take him by the hand (or foot), lift him up in the air, drag him on the ground, throw him, and he always comes back for more.

His body language is remarkable. He feels real, the way he moves, the way he reacts. It's an amazing piece of programming; his reactions feel totally human and it's easy to forget you're dealing with a computerised character. You sometimes even feel sorry for the little guy.

You have to see it to believe it and the screenshots don't really do this justice.

As you level up, you earn different coloured belts as you'd expect from a martial arts game, and your ninja becomes less clumsy. I've only reached level 9 and already you can see a difference in the way he bounces on the trampoline or hits the punch bag (both of which you have to hold in order for your ninja to practise on - it's very much a team effort). Then you can get him to attack crates, make him jump through hoops (literally), and deflect watermelon attacks, among others. His reactions is what make this a lot of fun to watch and interact with.

The more you use a particular equipment the more adept he becomes at it, until he's mastered that device. When that happens, you'll still be able to earn experience from using it, but you'll no longer earn money, forcing you to move on to bigger, more expensive equipment.

Of course, there's many ways to spend your rare gems: you can purchase new outfits or buy equipment before they get unlocked by levelling up. If you need more gems or coins, then they're just an easy in-app purchase away. Options range from £1.99 for 90 gems or 10,000 coins, to £20.99 (!) for 1,200 gems or 500,000 coins. It's all about getting you to spend money. Real money, to keep playing.

Lift him by the foot
Also the more you level up the more equipment is made available for you to keep on training your ninja and keep the interest going. Once you've used a particular equipment, you have to wait before you it's ready to be selected again. The more advanced it is, the more it'll earn your ninja experience, but the longer you'll have to wait before it's ready again. You can speed up the process of course by spending gems. You can also tweet and watch a video to skip the waiting time, but you can only do this once per day, so use them wisely.

Aside from training, your ninja is on the lookout for Kira, his friend who mysteriously disappeared.

The app description promises you'll venture beyond the courtyard, you'll be visiting new places, and interact with characters, but I haven't reached that part yet, and who knows how much money you'll be tempted to spend to get to it?

You could use the way of Zen and exercise patience. Earn your money through training and wait for the equipment to repair itself. Nothing's stopping you from doing this. The developers are just hoping you're the impatient, instant gratification type. :)

But grab yourself a copy and see how you can interact with this cute little clumsy ninja. It's pretty amazing. And free. To start with.


He loves it!
Perform tasks to earn money

Train your ninja
Sensei rewards good training
The path is long - and potentially expensive

I wonder what this potion will do
Hold on tight!

how many things can you hold on to
and drag up in the air?
Look! something to spend real money on!
Sleep well, little ninja
I think I'll try defying gravity
One ninja and his chicken

Version Reviewed: 1.2.1

Price: free (includes in-app purchases)

Size: 92.7MB

Rated: 4+

Compatibility: requires iOS 5.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.

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