This title was reviewed on Nintendo Switch, but is also available for PS4 and PC.
Protecting one’s carrots is the ninja way, BELIEVE IT! And in Ninjin: Clash of Carrots, the job of both the ninja rabbit, Ninjin and the ninja fox, Akai is to protect the town’s carrots from the evil warlord. Though, don’t let childish characters and plot fool you, Ninjin: Clash of Carrots has deep gameplay layered underneath its simplistic plot. It’s a multilayered sidescrolling beat-em up game that appears to be targeted at children while playing like it’s made for adults. The question is, does this childish illusion work?
The first layer of this game you find yourself confronted with is the childish tone. Even just hearing the name Ninjin: Clash of Carrots, my mind is instantly drawn to thinking about Ninjago, the children’s game. Adding on top of that the Clash of the Carrots title makes it sound a little lame, to put it bluntly. So coming into this game, I was expecting a babyish game that would hold my hand and wouldn’t work me mentally. This was also reinforced by the fact that the art style is basic and lacking detail. Backgrounds are made up of circles and boxes, creating rough trees with no real variation to keep you entertained. Alongside an intro filled with lame jokes, I felt like within the first three minutes of opening up this game I was 10 again.
After three minutes this belief was immediately dispelled. Though it took a while to get to the point where I was challenged by the game, I still instantly knew that this gameplay had depth. The gameplay consists of your player or players (if you choose to use the multiplayer function), scrolling along the map slaying waves of enemies. These enemies don’t follow traditional beat em up formula, and instead of being carbon copies with the odd boss, Ninjin instead constantly adds different and interesting enemies that complement each other. This keeps levels interesting and stops it from falling into the pitfall of becoming a button mashing simulator. And with only three different combat options, melee, range shuriken and dash, Ninjin does a lot with a little. Combining options like dash attacks and different shurikans and swords that have different elements. This allows you to use very simple tools in many different ways, giving every player a different playstyle depending on how they like to play.
This isn’t the only option for customisation as you also gain the ability to buy special passives that can make a huge difference in how you tackle a level. Whether you want a lot of health to tank all the damage, or a large pool of stamina giving you the ability to go all guns blazing. Ninjin boasts a large variety of different tools for you to use. The only downside is unlocking everything you want can be a bit of a grind, meaning you have to be somewhat frugal with spending.
I was surprised with the level of depth to be found in a game I first believed to be childish. Though this depth didn’t exactly blend well with the childish tone. There’s an art to making a game appear like something and then shattering your beliefs by bringing you something completely different. Whilst Ninjin: Clash of Carrots didn’t blow my mind, if more justice had been given to core gameplay, tone, and visual style, this would have been a much better game. However, when looked at as individual pieces, Ninjin passes in all regards and manages to entertain but when put together, it just misses that cohesiveness to make it all merge.