Game publishers seem to assume that all we PC players want are shooters and historical strategy games, and if they're set in World War II, so much the better. This may be true for some, but certainly not for all, and yet whenever a console publisher raids its catalogue for a game PC people might like, it always opts for the shooter. That's why we get crap like Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior and Red Faction and very little of the interesting stuff like Ninja Gaiden and Super Monkey Ball.
Luckily, l-Ninja is an exception. A fairly typical cartoon-style adventure, it puts you in control of a diminutive assassin with Gallagher eyebrows to fight against hordes of henchmen, robotic dogs and other baddies. As well as fast-paced swordplay, you can take control of turrets, throw explosive darts and shurikens, bound between walls, use a chain to swing between ledges and even guide exploding barrels and metal balls around the place. In all honesty there isn't anything blindingly new or innovative here (some sections are strongly reminiscent of Mystical Ninja on the N64), but in terms of variety, energy and fun, you definitely won't be left wanting.
If anything, Namco has undersold this one, for not only are the graphics far more vibrant and detailed than the console versions, but the price is almost stupidly low. Excuse, if any were needed, to buy yourself a decent gamepad.
I've come to a point where I almost don't want to try a new platformer unless it's from Nintendo, Sega, or Sony. Too many publishers are flooding this genre with mediocre efforts, so I find it easier just to pretend that something like Dr. Muto never really existed. But now, I-Ninja comes along to prove that all hope isn't lost. At first, I-Ninja seems like just a repetitive action game with some nice play mechanics. The quirky little hero can slice 'n' dice with the best of 'em, but it's nothing you haven't seen before. Beat the first level, however, and I-Ninja opens up in a big way. Almost every level is unique, with goals that range from destroying all enemies to manning a huge, boat-blasting turret to hopping into a giant robot and going into battle. I couldn't put it down. And that's the important part. I-Ninja's not going to steal the crown from the Sonics, Jaks, and Marios of the world, but it's a genuinely fun romp. In a genre so clogged with crap, that's good enough for me.
I'd have to agree with Greg...about this being a 'repetitive action game with some nice play mechanics.' Unlike him, though, I had no trouble putting 1-Ninja down. What was tough for me was distinguishing the levels from one another, since many of them play so much alike. Sure, there are interesting minigames that deviate from the standard run-and-jump formula, but nowadays, interesting minigames that deviate from the standard run-and-jump formula have become an integral part of the standard run-and-jump formula. Our little hero is cute, but this is nothing more than a rental.
I love what this game offers--classic 3D platforming action with a supercool mini-ninja dude. The problem is, 1-Ninja doesn't offer a whole heckuva lot of it. You can blast through the entire game in a few sessions, and you're likely to quickly forget about it when it's over. Despite incorporating everything from robot battles, rail grinding, and bowling, 1-Ninja liberally rips off every platformer before it. Still, I'm hoping for a sequel that fixes these issues, so we can one day see little Ninja shine so bright.