Poor Mini Ninjas. IO’s 2009 action title wasn’t perfect, but its stars deserved a kinder sentence than being forced to run through an endless corridor. That should have been the fate of Kane & Lynch. But unlike those gritty mercenaries, the Mini Ninjas look adorable, and that’s at least one ingredient of App Store success.
The other is shrewd monetisation, but Mini Ninjas avoids Final Fantasy: All The Bravest‘s cynical, gouging approach. An infinite runner with few genuinely new tricks of its own, Mini Ninjas coasts by off the back of some charming 3D visuals, IO’s cartoony world translating naturally to a side-on view. Ninja Hiro runs from left to right, and you tap the left or right of the screen if you want him to jump over or slash at the obstacles in its way. Sadly, the visuals and mechanics can clash: foreground furniture occasionally obscures obstacles in Hiro’s path.
This is one of the most formulaic designs in gaming right now, and all the ingredients are here. Coins let you buy both cosmetic and functional items. Optional challenges let you rank up for small rewards. The Mini Ninjas supporting cast function like the vehicles in Jetpack Joyride. And yes, you can spend real money to access many of these things faster.
A more novel addition is a crafting system lets you convert items you find into items and potions, but it functions more like a secondary currency than an alchemical minigame. There’s nothing egregiously wrong with Mini Ninjas, but nor is there a reason to give up on genre highlights like Punch Quest and Jetpack Joyride.