A vengeful heroine, aggressive gun wielding pixel men and a great soundtrack make Ronin an entertaining yet frustrating turn-based action platformer.
Your mission as a motorbike helmet-clad assassin is to track down and kill five powerful business partners in a bloody quest for revenge. Your only allies are your blade, your wits and of course some sick techno beats.
The controls take some time to get used to, but once you get the hang of pausing time and grappling through rooms full of enemies, unseen, the platforming is really satisfying. A lot of the time the game forces you into combat by revealing yourself to the guards and it’s up to you to make sure they don’t activate a lockdown procedure, one of the optional missions in most of the levels. If a guard or civilian comes across a smashed window or a dead body laying around they will start a countdown from eight, meaning you have eight turns to get to that person and stop them or certain doors will be locked, increasing the difficulty. In new game plus it causes an automatic restart of the level adding an extra layer of difficulty.
Crashing through windows and slaughtering corridors full of guards feels great if you can manage to stay out of their cross-hairs as one bullet is all it takes to kill our would-be assassin. This can prove difficult at times as the red laser sights have a small invisible death zone around them that will kill you instantly should you fall to close. That aside, the combat is fairly enjoyable though different coloured laser sights for the various enemy types would have been appreciated as I continually found myself jumping to the roof only to be peppered by a stream of machine gun fire.
Completing all the bonus objectives in a stage, for example not killing civilians and avoiding a lockdown, earn you points that go toward unlocking skills such as the ability to impale enemies with your sword from across the room and looping a rope around an unsuspecting enemy’s neck leaving them hanging from the roof. Through it all you are graced with some pulse-pounding music that will have you hopping around stages shedding the enemies’ guts in time to the beat.
The challenge of remaining undetected while you are continually thrust into action-oriented and bloody encounters is very difficult. The placements of certain lights sometimes make detection inevitable. You would think this could get annoying and yet it’s oddly refreshing as it forces the player to act quickly, dispelling any notions of passivity that they might have picked up while playing other stealth based games.
The level design of Ronin does start to look a bit uninspired after the first hour or so of gameplay and the fights, fun as they are, can lead to a depressing number of deaths and retries. Regardless of this, it all boils down to a slick platformer that is worth at least a few hours of your attention, if not more.
If you come into this game looking for a fleshed out story and interesting characters you might be disappointed. It’s very much about you, the enemies and moving through the stages. The story provides a nice background for what is, at its heart, a very mechanically-driven game. Ronin doesn’t pull any punches – it’s like you’re continually tossed into frantic bullet hell rooms and told “go kill everyone”, and just as you turn to leave, “and by the way, don’t get spotted.”