Atomic Ninjas karate chops its way to the PlayStation Network, offering a nice arsenal of moves for anyone to kill the nemesis of free time with. Grip Games proves to be clever in their concept by melding together several fan favorite elements into one single package. Multiplayer brawler? Bright flashing colors? Ninjas? I. Am. Sold. But does this game get the black belt? Well, not quite.
When a giant red button is accidentally smashed, resulting in a huge explosion of radioactive goodness, the ninjas find themselves superhuman and even, atomic. Starting the game, I couldn’t help but smile at the over-the-top, in-your-face antics, which gave a strong impression of what the world of Atomic Ninjas would be like. Just the intro movie alone, which only consisted of a few comical slides, made for a great start and definitely got my adrenaline going. Part of me hoped there would be no voice acting in this game as it could easily go from spunky to overly cheesy. However, it worked for the intro movie, and for the most part is sprinkled into the right parts of the game.
As with any case of ninjas, there’s no going straight to the battlefield without some quick training. With the stereotypical master ninja barking orders at you in broken but confident English, it’s hard not to have a warm fuzzy feeling of comfort, an odd thing to have for a wacky game such as this, but an important thing. Too often are games not true to themselves, losing the consistent universes they’ve created, but for Atomic Ninjas, Grip Games knew where they wanted to go, and cleverly added in every element of ninjas that have been accepted into our culture.
Let’s get to the actual gameplay. As a ninja, you must be swift, and thankfully, there are a variety of movement options to help you maneuver around the field. Tied to the L1 button, you can have such gadgets as a grappling hook, a claw, and a rocket, each making escaping from trouble – or going straight to it – that much easier. As for weapons, tied to the R1 button, you’re offered the deadly likes of your own fists, force grip, and of course, shurikens. Mixing and matching the movement options with the weapon options can be too much at first, but finding the pair that fits you just right is like Christmas morning.
The most fun I personally had was when my opponents and I clearly had no idea of how to play the game and were changing our gear like madmen on crack, finding the combination that suited us the most. I’m not sure if I’m just bad at the game, but quite honestly, the combo of rocket and shuriken seems to be the way to go for almost anyone.
Another neat bonus is the system of Ninja Trials, which offers a chance to get new characters and superpowers. The very first power that comes with your character was genius, as just standing there and turning invisible made me smile with that warm fuzzy feeling yet again.
Going forward, Atomic Ninjas offers the usual modes of gameplay, from deathmatch to capture the flag. The variety is there, but things begin to feel all too similar after a while.
This game’s weakness is that it depends completely on multiplayer with real people. There is an option to play a game with the AI, but it doesn’t feel rewarding at all, and seems kind of pointless to do. In addition, playing against the AI makes Atomic Ninjas somehow lose its charm, since what makes this experience so much fun is the interaction between yourself and either your friend or a complete stranger across the country. There is no campaign or single player mode to kill time with, unfortunately.
I do have to praise the art, though. With so many vibrant colors popping in at every turn, the game could have ended up looking muddy or even disturbing. But the smart use of black lines to break the field of color prevent it from feeling disjointed. The comic style works extremely well too, and gives the game the pow it needs to keep itself visually interesting.
The stages are cleverly designed enough so that they add some creativity to the title, as the only real way to kill anyone is by knocking them into fire, electricity, or any other dangerous surroundings. It’s your job to find out where the kill zones are, and how to get your opponents flying into them.
Looking ahead, I do see myself turning this game on the minute a friend comes over, just to show them how completely bonkers it can get. It’s a great party game for any situation, and though it might feel tiresome after a while, there will always be moments of explosive laughter if the right things happen. Moreover, it’s a simple game, and that’s not a bad thing. Anyone can pick up the controller and find fun by just running around like a headless chicken, trying not to jump into the pit of fire because it looks oh so pretty.
This review was based on the PlayStation 3 version of the game, which we were provided with.
If you don't expect to get a brutal, all-serious, intricate game, then you'll be more than happy with the wackiness that Atomic Ninjas has to offer.