Monday 16 February 2015

Ninja (ZX Spectrum review)

Developer: Icon Design Ltd
Publisher: Entertainment USA
Released: 1987

Ninja is one of my favourite 8-bit games so I was excited to try this Spectrum port. Unfortunately it's by far the worst one I've played.

Your mission is to travel through the Palace of Death, collect the seven idols and then return to the opening screen. The door to the seventh idol only opens when you have the first six and their locations vary on each playthrough, which enhances replayability. When you start the game it does feel and play a lot like the other versions of Ninja; however, major problems quickly appear. The best method of beating Ninja has always been to jump-kick repeatedly when near an enemy. In the Atari and C64 versions you can still take damage while doing this but it's the most effective move. In this Spectrum port it's actually impossible to lose the game if you continually jump kick as enemies cannot hit you! This takes a lot of the challenge away and I was easily able to beat it on my first try. To make things worse, it's stupidly difficult to go down a level as you have to be perfectly (and I mean perfectly!) lined up with the hole in the floor. While you're busy wrestling with the controls you'll be swarmed by enemies intent on bashing you over the head. In this instance, it's actually easier to exit / re-enter the room to reset the thugs so you have time to reposition yourself to try again! The in-game music in the Atari 8-bit version is highly memorable but you won't find any of that here - there's the occasional sound effect but mostly it's a dull, silent experience. Even the graphics are poor with a lack of detail and a garish colour scheme.

This version of Ninja is a major disappointment - the inferior graphics and sound could be forgiven if the gameplay was up to scratch but it has some serious flaws that hinder the entire experience. Stick with the Atari 8-bit game as it's the definitive version in my opinion.

Random trivia: Certain copies of the Spectrum port have major bugs including enemies that can't hit you whatsoever and an ending that refuses to register, making the game unbeatable!

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