I’m willing to bet that at any one point, an endless runner is always in the top 50 free or paid apps. There’s no doubting their appeal and success over the past few years. Every smartphone owner must have their fix of Temple Run, Jetpack Joyride, Subway Surfers, or whatever it is that you are no doubt addicted to. Square Enix is attempting to make that list with their latest little gem, Mini Ninjas (out now, $0.99).
It is yet another endless runner that tasks the user with reaching as far as they can without hitting any obstacles whilst also collecting a plethora of gold coins. It has everything you would expect from an endless runner — a cute character, coins, upgrades, and a catchy soundtrack that encourages you to keep playing.
The controls are fairly simple — tap on the left side of the screen to jump, hold to jump further. Tap on the right side to swing your sword at oncoming enemies, crates, and other weak obstacles. Sometimes you may have to ‘wall run’, which involves a double-tap to jump and then sprint across a wall.
Like any modern endless runner, Mini Ninjas even has different abilities and power-ups. The gold coins you collect throughout each level can be traded for different potions that serve unique purposes. They aren’t unreasonably priced but if you do find yourself losing often, there are of course in-app purchases available. Whilst you’re running, there are other little ninja dudes trapped in cages which you must jump up and slash open with your little ninja sword. Once you free them, you get to play as their character until you hit an obstacle. This is a neat touch because not only do you get an extra life, but more variety is added to the game. For example, there’s a huge ninja that can smash huge boulders. How awesome is that?
What makes Mini Ninjas different to most other side-view endless runners is the mere fact that it’s 3D. This makes a huge difference in terms of visual quality. The levels look much more lively and appealing. The special effects also look amazing — before each run, a short cinematic of a dragon flying down above your character makes the experience so much more awesome.
Although Mini Ninjas may appear to be your next definite purchase, you should know that its core gameplay doesn’t change much. When you first launch it, the short cinematic introduction and cool environments will no doubt mesmerize you, but after playing 10 or so runs, you know what to expect.
Mini Ninjas provides that initial ‘wow’ factor when you first try the game. Beautiful graphics, neat effects, additional power-ups, and simple control scheme all make for a great endless runner, but it doesn’t change after a dozen rounds. The core gameplay doesn’t have enough variety to make Mini Ninjas a ‘must have’.