Developer: Pandada Games
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Ninja Must Die is very much like the C-grade anime it clearly seeks to emulate – visually splashy, packed full of relentless action and nonsensical plotting, and ultimately faintly exhausting.
In terms of gameplay, there’s absolutely nothing original here. It’s the kind of auto-runner the older ones among us were playing more than a decade ago, with a familiar-looking ninja silhouette scampering purposefully from left to right.
You’re essentially tapping the virtual jump button whenever an enemy critter gets in the way, just as it’s always been. Developer Panadada has sought to mix things up by throwing countless diversions at the screen, but this typically amounts to tapping a different button – down to flip gravity and duck below the playing field, for instance, or one of the dizzying array of weapons and power-ups you’ll collect along the way.
The level design, too, is somewhat hyperactive, with constantly changing scenery and protagonists, swooping bosses, and numerous overwrought cut scenes. These seem to outline a ninja-vs-samurai-vs-oni war, as far as we can tell. It’s all rather inconsequential, but you have to tip the hat to the production values at least, with a fully voiced script.
Indeed, Ninja Must Die as a whole is surprisingly polished, if a little gauche. On occasions its ink wash painting visual style and zooming, panning camera reminded us of the Rayman games.
It’s all very busy, with countless distractions both during and between levels. During play, you’ll frequently encounter swarms of awkwardly written phrases, which turn out to be comments made by your fellow players. Sure enough, tap the screen and you can add your own word clusters to the pile.
On the one hand, this is a cool feature that evokes the shared experience of console games like Dark Souls and Elden Ring. On the other, it makes very little sense within the context of a bright and breezy autorunner.
Less lovable is a freemium structure that requires you to plough virtual currencies into your character and weapons in order to progress. Like we said, it’s exhausting.
Ninja Must Die is clearly a labor of love – perhaps a little too much love. The developer appears to have taken a more-is-more approach to design, resulting in a very busy and restless autorunner that grows tiresome fairly quickly.
- Huge variety of things to do and see
- Solid autorunner action
- Impressive production values
- Gameplay feels dated
- Borderline incoherent story
- Weird comment system