Woo. Woo. Woo. Prepare yourself for gushing. Bring an umbrella.
Mark of The Ninja is a stylish sidescrolling stealth platformer by Klei Studios, best known previously for the stylish sidescrolling beat-em-up platformers Shank and Shank 2, and stylish sidescrolling puzzle platformers Eets and N+. They make stylish sidescrolling platformers, is what I'm getting at here.
You are... Well actually you don't have a name and are a silent protagonist. You're a ninja, in any case. Your ninja clan is attacked by an evil businessman (and his private army) by the name of Karajan. In order to take revenge, you take on special magical tattoos that give you almost supernatural powers, but will eventually drive you insane (it is tradition to kill yourself before that happens).
|I pretend he's Irish and his name is Mark O'theninja.|
Mark of the Ninja is a fundamentally linear game, it is a sidescroller after all, it's not like some of the levels in Thief 2 where you're just plopped down in a big open area and told to go do something. Flow-wise it might be better compared to a 2D version of Splinter Cell: a mostly linear series of stealth encounters. However, the game's a fair bit more flexible than Splinter Cell (or at least the first Splinter Cell, which is the only one I've played). You've got options. Options galore. Say you need to get past two guards hanging out under some lamp posts. Do you distract the two guards by shattering a lamp post and jump over them when their head is turned? Do you stealth kill one guard and hang him from the lamp post, terrifying the other? Do you shoot the guards with terror darts and let them shoot each other out of fear? Do you toss a smoke bomb and slink past? Do you stealth kill the both of them? Do you simply take an alternate route?
|Or you can pull a Phantom and drop chandeliers on 'em.|
In addition to finding different ways of dealing with situations, Mark of The Ninja often provides multiple routes as well. It's quite smart about making use of the vertical space being a sidescroller provides it, allowing you to jump around, grappling hook around, and run up walls like you're half-Spiderman half-Batman. Since you're infiltrating buildings a lot of the time, there are usually multiple floors and rooms with different situations, as well as copious amounts of vents and roofs. If you find a situation you don't like, you can often find a way of circumventing of it (which of course has its own challenges).
|Frankly, if I was a magic ninja I'd probably just annoy the guards by hanging around and giving them wedgies or turning their hats backwards or something. Then they'd hear me giggling and shoot me.|
|Lasers. The Ninja's ancestral enemy.|
|Stealth: noun. Running through an alarm laser and under a light while a guard is staring directly at you.|
Mark of The Ninja is available for $14.99 on Steam. There's also an XBox version for the same price.