Developer dot zo games has a habit of making these utterly charming games which look good and play well but fail to add any sort of substance which would warrant a purchase by most. Case in point is Ninja Train, the first of dot zo games’ three currently listed ninja video games. The premise of Ninja Train is simple: the player guides a ninja across as he leaps, double jumps, and air dashes his way through three levels collecting coins. The action is depicted from the view of someone along a speeding train for the first two levels and then a plane for the third. The game ends after the third level is completed, which will be three minutes after the player started the game.
With no obstacles to avoid or way to die, it is possible to leave the forced scrolling game running and watch it play itself to the end. Of course, that wouldn’t be fun, but it means that the game can be enjoyed in its entirety during the eight minute long trial period. Ninja Train is a forced scrolling simple score challenge and one which gives the player little reason to purchase it beyond supporting the developer. Not only is the game ridiculously short, but it also fails to save high scores locally let alone on a global leaderboard. Players will find the full game as satisfying as the demo precisely because of the lack of expanded options and short length Ninja Train offers.
Still, I bought the game. Why? Well, it’s only 80 points for starters, but it was a “support the developers” purchase as Ninja Train plays well and is a great little game in its own right. The ninjas animate well and are fun to control, flipping out all over the place. While the title tutorial screen notes the point values of the coins and scrolls to be collected, I love how a hidden bonus exists for those who retrieve the little girl’s lost balloon on the first two levels. The scrolls as well offer some trite expansion with the gliding or very brief ninja multiplying powers they grant. While some may complain about how the view from the vehicles obscures some of the level, I thought it was a neat idea nonetheless and in no significant way hinders the player’s view of the action.
The inexcusable lack of a way to escape out of the game and short length would almost indicate that Ninja Train was stillborn, unable to finish its development cycle before getting published on Xbox Indies. I don’t think that’s the case here given the level of detail and polish the game offers with its brief but coherent three level structure. It’s a shame, too, because with a little tweaking this could have been something along the lines of Canabalt, a later released and somewhat similar forced scrolling run-and-jump game. Ninja Train is fun while it lasts and worth checking out, even if some people may find the 17.21 MB download to last longer than the game itself.