Appropriately enough, I guess, this stealth-action puzzler from PictoSoft snuck under most iGamers’ radar and landed on the App Store without causing a kerfuffle or attracting much attention. Still, it’s a real shame Shinobi ZIN: Ninja Boy (Out Now, $0.99) isn’t getting more recognition, as it’s a thoughtfully developed title that boasts remarkably well-executed gameplay and comes packing more content than you can shake a shuriken at!
The game gets underway with a short and stylish cutscene depicting a trainee ninja being tasked by his Sensei with procuring a hidden treasure from the labyrinthine depths of a trap-laden fortress. Players then hop into the tabi boots of this plucky young warrior as he embarks on a thrilling, danger-frought adventure that will put every ounce of his (and your) skill, patience and cunning to the test.
Shinobi ZIN features a staggering sixty levels split up and spread over the castle’s five floors. The goal of each maze-like stage is to tentatively pick your way from point A (the entrance) to point B (the exit), while working out how best to bypass fiendish obstacles like enormous spinning blades and a multitude of other motion-sensing death-traps on the fly, pitting your wits against patrolling enemies, and collecting coins, keys and scrolls as you go. If that sounds tricky, that’s because it is. Very.
PictoSoft make a good fist of easing you into Shinobi ZIN‘s unique brand of puzzle-fueled adventuring, though. The castle’s first floor essentially acts as an extended tutorial — allowing you plenty of time to get to grips with the controls and wrap your head around the diverse array of challenges you’ll face as you progress through the game.
The key to success in this game is patience and forward-planning, young grasshopper. You can pinch and zoom out at any time to take a bird’s eye look at your surroundings and plan your route and course of action accordingly, which is incredibly handy. Once you’re happy you’ve figured out the best strategy for dodging traps and/or stealthily offing enemies, you then simply tap on your ninja and swipe the screen to send him scuttling off in the desired direction. You can stop him in his tracks with another quick tap, while a double-tap causes him to begin crawling (useful for passing over pressure-sensitive traps without triggering them or sneaking up on baddies).
More often than not putting even a single foot wrong as you make your way through Shinobi ZIN‘s deadly obstacle courses results in instant death, so you’ll thank your lucky stars the game features such pinpoint-accurate controls.
While the intuitive and easily mastered controls makes Shinobi ZIN an instantly enjoyable, slick affair, the real star of the show here is the elaborate level design. Seriously, no two stages are the same so you’ll definitely want to keep playing just to see what manner of ingenious craziness the next has in store for you! Pictosoft also do an absolutely fantastic job of incrementally introducing new challenges and keeping the gameplay lastingly fresh and engaging over the course of the commendably lengthy adventure.
For the best part, Shinobi ZIN has a pretty well balanced difficulty curve, but if you do start to find the going too tough, there’s a bunch of handy ninja equipment on sale from the in-game store. Of course, there’s the option to simply splash real-world cash on the likes of an invisibility cloak or the power of invincibilty for those of you with deep pockets. If you’ve got an aversion to IAPs, however, be prepared to have to replay levels over and over again in order to earn enough gold to buy stuff the old fashioned way. Other neat items like bonus characters are exclusively available via IAPs, sadly. The only other gripes I had with the game were the frequent spelling errors during tutorials and the fact that the repetitive soundtrack begins to grate before long.
iFanzine Verdict: Shinobi ZIN: Ninja Boy’s masterful commingling of mindbending puzzles and stealthy action truly is pulse-quickening, thrill-a-minute stuff. If you like your iOS games challenging and with plenty of meat on their bones, this comes highly recommended.