Cats and ninjas, a winning combination?
Review written by
October 22nd, 2009
Aimed at younger gamers with a series of what are essentially mini-games (dreaded M word!) and a plot as senseless as Chewbacca's diary, it's clear that Ninja Captains isn't trying to be art. Does it succeed in bringing some fun times to the table though?
The vibrantly animated trailer and comical teaser videos would lead you to expect a title with high production values at the least. Unfortunately the difference between the marketing and the actual game is marked. In-game cut-scenes don't use the same CGI, but an extremely sketchy hand-drawn style. This is both drab and unprofessional, to the extent that it looks like a "placeholder" for what was originally intended to be there. Sadly this sets the tone for the rest of the experience which, for the most part, seems rushed and shallow.
Ninja Captains intro sequence.
The menu screen greets you with two modes of play. First of these is the Story Mode, which you can play alone or with friends. You pick one of the captains (they're cats) and guide him/her through a string of mini-games, needing to score a certain amount of points to progress. Of the four characters on screen, non-human ones are played by the CPU, but they don't have any real effect on the outcome. After each game is a wacky cut-scene which takes the cats to another part of the world in search of a giant robotic mouse.
There are 20 mini-games to play, but on the whole they're largely forgettable. A small handful of "ok" ones are present, but a lot of them are obviously there to make up the numbers. For me, highlights included "Railroad Ride", which has each cat riding a tram, using the Wii remote to lean left and ride to avoid oncoming signposts and jumping sleepers with the A button. "Ninja Skydive" was also kind of cool, having the cats skydive through hoops over a Google Earth-esque background.
The difficulty curve is all over the place. Many of the games are simple and straight forward, while others like "Bus Surfing" and "White Water Rafting" require split-second reactions. For others, the oversimplified instructions screen doesn't adequately explain the motions you're supposed to do. I still can't figure out how to paddle the canoes properly, whether that's down to broken controls or me not doing it right, I'm not sure. The games are Wiimote-centric, but for some you also need the Nunchuk. In all, you're looking at around an hour's worth of gameplay in story mode.
Party mode is much the same. It can also be played alone or with company, but it lets you choose whichever mini-game you like from a map screen. Even as a party game, Ninja Captains is likely to grow stale quite quickly. I think that's largely due to the complete lack of interaction, each game is effectively played solo, none of your actions on-screen will affect anyone else's play. Loading times are another negative, they feel pretty lengthy.
Shoddy cut-scenes aside, the graphics aren't too bad. Each cat looks well rendered and they're distinctive enough not to get mixed up. The objects and backdrops used in the games are suitably colorful, but still fail to add any real sense of fun.
Perhaps the piece de resistance would be the music. There's very little variety and each tune, including the oft-used main theme, is literally a 3 second loop repeated over and over.
The zany antics of the cats may be enough to entertain very young gamers for a short time, but even at a budget price Ninja Captains is not one I could recommend.
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