1-bit Ninja is a brand new platformer from developer Kode80. It combines the touch controls of an iPhone game with a retro visual style to create one of the most unique experiences on the iPhone, if not also one of the most frustrating.
The game is very simple to control, and the old-school visuals, reminiscent of the original Game Boy, definitely create a tone of simplicity, but all of that is just to lull you into a sense of nostalgic familiarity, as the game is actually quite complex. You control the ninja by tapping the left side of the screen to run forward and tapping the right side of the screen to jump. You can swipe across the top of the screen to view the seemingly 2D retro plane in fully rendered 3D, showing branching hidden paths. The effect is extremely cool, and it honestly never gets old to see. There is also absolutely no backwards movement in this game, you can only run forward. This, combined with the hidden paths is what makes this such a unique experience.
Each level is full of coins and varying enemies, as well as five special coins to find. These are almost always are at the end of a secret path, meaning that if you miss the path, you’ll just have to remember it for the next time you play. This sense of exploration creates a level of depth unseen in 2D platformers, and creates a lot of replay-ability. Each level has a time limit as well, so you can’t spend too much time exploring and enjoying the cool visuals. Several other interesting mechanics are included, such as power-up potions and springs that reverse your direction.
There seem to be two basic play styles; to sprint through the game ignoring the 3D feature almost entirely, or to be methodical and go for all the secrets and collectibles. The game is definitely very challenging, though some will view it as unfair challenge. The jump button felt a bit unresponsive at times, and in a game where your platforming has to be precise and perfect, it led to several frustrating deaths. The game could also benefit from the addition of Game Center leaderboards and achievements to really make going for those fastest times and highest scores feel worthwhile. The ability to save videos of your most impressive runs is a very cool feature though.
In the end, this is definitely a title that should be checked out by all. Some of you will love it, and some will hate it, this game is really split in that way. It all depends on how you feel about the controls. The forward-only method of play will make this game unplayable for some, while others will embrace it whole-heartedly. Surprisingly, I actually sit in the frustrated and annoyed camp. But I know an innovative and creative title when I see one, and I absolutely love the retro style and the chip tune soundtrack. I think everyone should give this game a download, if only to support actual innovation and creativity over more clones of dual stick shooters and physics games. This app costs $2, and I say it’s worth it.