Kode80 weave some pixelated magic into this new, but old, platform hopper…
Regular readers of this site will no doubt know of my fondness for all things retro. Particularly with platformers of late. Both Mos Speedrun and League of Evil tickled my gaming itch for such simple delights, and now 1-bit Ninja does the same… and perhaps even better.
There are two reasons for this; one is that it stays loyal to the basic and best parts of classic platformers, like Super Mario Bros.; and the second is that despite its retro looks it employs modern gameplay mechanics to keep it up-to-date and fresh.
The premise is usual platforming fare; run to the end of the level, all the while avoiding enemies and collecting coins, and repeat. You control you Ninja by tapping the run button on the left screen, and jumping via the right side. There is no left movement, and while this may come as a shock to most (including myself initially) after playing it you’ll realise that it not only makes controls easier and a good fit for the touchscreen, but that it also adds to the challenge of the levels. Instead of just breezing through each level, you’ll need to think and memorise the best path, because if you blink you’ll miss it.
The unique element that gives it a modern spin though is the fact that, while on the face of it the game seems two dimensional (2D), it does in-fact play on a 3D plane (or 2.5D). To see the game in three dimensions you tap or drag the top half of the screen to momentarily drag the camera view. From there you can see exactly where obstacles are placed in relation to your Ninja. What seemed like an un-passable object in 2D view is in fact not where you thought it was when viewed in 3D. This allows Kode80 to add a puzzle element to the levels, particularly in the area of bonus coin placement. Sure, you can speedrun through levels, but the fun and the challenge is in trying to collect all the bonus coins, and this system works perfectly.
Let’s not beat around the bush here, 1-bit Ninja doesn’t shy away from the outright cloning of the Mario series; in particular Super Mario Bros. on the NES and Super Mario Land on the Gameboy (of which I have been playing a lot of lately on the 3DS’s virtual console). From the level structures and layouts, the types of enemies, head bouncing, and even the end of level pole jump, you almost need to do a double take to check that this wasn’t made by Nintendo. While I’m not a fan of plagiarism in gaming (though I understand there are only so many themes you can play with) I don’t feel that 1-Bit Ninja is doing it for the wrong reasons, instead this seems more like a homage to the platforming greats, a love letter if you will from an indie developer.
1-bit Ninja looks the part and sounds the part. Heck, if the iPhone had smell-o-vision I think 1-bit Ninja would even smell retro too (slightly musty with sweet overtones). It’s the best example of a retro platformer on iOS yet…and I’m hooked!
1-Bit Ninja is out now on iPhone for $1.99. Get it on the
While only for iPhone and iPod Touch, it plays and looks equally as good in 2x mode on an iPad and iPad 2.