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Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun

Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun Review – Jumping Into Action

Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun sells itself as a fast-paced roguelite with one button controls, inspired by Japanese folklore. It’s not far from the truth. The action here is indeed frantic, often not giving you much time to think things through. And, if you die, you lose the majority of the items you’ve picked up and have to start your current multi-stage mission from the beginning again. But when it comes to the controls, things are a little more complicated than just pressing one button.

What makes Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun unique is that you can’t simply walk or run. Instead, to navigate each of the game’s levels you need to jump. Select a direction with the left analogue stick, press and hold the jump button, and release – you’ll then perform a mighty leap. Whether you land on a floor or a wall, you can then start preparing your next jump. Rinse and repeat until you reach the end of the level.

For some levels that’s not quite enough though. You see, some are filled with enemies that you need to combat. Others require you to find a key to open the exit door. And in most there are some form of hazards that you need to avoid. There’s more to this roguelite than meets the eye, then, and your skills are undoubtedly going to be tested.

When it comes to hazards, your best bet is to simply try to do your best to avoid them. You can also skilfully perform a jump near them to avoid taking damage – this works for enemy attacks, too. And to deal with any enemies that stand in your way, for the most part you’ll just need to jump at them: as your ninja moves through them, he’ll slash with his weapons, doing considerable damage. It pays to perform charged jumps, though, which slow down time and inflict even more damage.

Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun

So far, then, that’s the left analogue stick in use and indeed, just one button. But Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun has items you can pick up and either use or equip. As well as consumables such as rice balls that can be eaten to restore your health, there are souls that can be equipped to boost your stats, and even throwable weapons to enable you to attack at range. The latter can be used via their own dedicated button, making the game’s so-called one-button control system a bit of a marketing gimmick. You can also switch between your equipped items with the left and right shoulder buttons instead of diving into the game’s awkward inventory system if you wish.

So, Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun isn’t as simple as it makes itself out to be. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing: it’s actually good that it has more depth than just pressing one button. As you spring from surface to surface, facing off against foes and powerful bosses, you are likely to find some issues that genuinely frustrate though. Sometimes you’re required to jump relatively blind, for example, not really knowing if there are going to be any hazards where you land.

Also troublesome is the fact that the game is visually on the noisy side. The pixelated presentation here is rather stylish, but sometimes there’s so much going on that it’s hard to see important things such as enemies and what weapons they may be carrying. Chances are you’ll even find yourself taking damage without even knowing. The flashes and other flourishes are overwhelming.

Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun

As already touched on, the inventory system can be a pain too. With your inventory space limited, you’ll rue the fact that items are picked up by just moving through them. Soon, then, your inventory will be full of items such as scrolls unless you use them on a regular basis, forcing you to keep going into it and throwing them out to make space for more useful goods. Oh, and the game doesn’t pause while you’re in there.

For those who do get on with Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun and aren’t deterred too much by its troublesome issues, there’s a fair amount of content here. There are many missions to complete, each with a large number of levels. And those who explore them well will find NPCs to rescue that open up new services back in the town that acts as a hub. There are additional characters to unlock as play as, too.

Ultimately, Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun is a stylish and unique roguelite, and for some players the originality it exhibits will be enough to win them over. There’s no getting over the fact that it feels messy at times, though, and that repetition can set in if you sit down to play it for a considerable period of time. Still, anyone after a challenge that involves a lot of jumping may want to check this out.


Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun Review – GameSpew’s Score

GameSpew Our Score 6

This review of Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun was facilitated by a code provided by the game’s publisher. It’s available on PC.

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