Game review: Mark of the Ninja Remastered for PS4

Mark of the Ninja dropped a newly remastered edition along with their debut on the Nintendo Switch, (a device I lusted after, but feel less attracted to now that the paid online features have been implemented) and I had vague memories of not liking it. But, my reason then for not liking it was the sales pitch that you could do a fully pacifist run and even get rewarded for it. But in reality, it’s only possible to do said pacifist run in New Game+, and so much of my review on that older version was griping about what I saw as a bait and switch ad. So I thought, “I know I have to kill everything on the first run anyway, so why not buy it again and see it through to the end?”

How does that old saying go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I’m a complete dumbass who got what I deserved. Because of that, I shall temper my temper and avoid my usual rage filled f-bombing. I did it to myself, knowing what would happen. But I suffered through this, for you. In the words of Courage the Cowardly Dog: “The things I do for love!”

For those of you interested in only the hot take, that’s all folks! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

If you’re sticking around for the full showcase of shite, I intend to break down all the problems I have with the game, and I will say that this time I did play all the way to the end. Thus I can more accurately articulate why I want to hunt down the developers, tie them down on a bed of scratchy wool blankets, and make them listen to Puberty Love for 24 hours straight. (You young’uns who decide to look that up for context, I am so, so sorry.)

Let’s start with the controls, which marred the whole…no, you know what, let’s start with the story. You are a Ninja-Mang who got a badass tat just hours before your clan is attacked by a private mercenary army for…reasons. (I played the whole game, and I’m still not clear on why the bad guys decided attacking ninjas was a good idea. There are cut scenes with the big bad boss, separate from the protagonist’s perspective, but they offer nothing to explain his motivation.) The bad-a-tat Ninja-Mang saves some NPCs and the leader of his clan, who sends him on a mission to go slay the bad guy.

Now, if you haven’t played the game and don’t want spoilers, I’ll advise you to scroll right past the next paragraphs until you see spoilers in bold again.

Ninja-Mang is aided in his mission by a woman named Ora, who is in fact a hallucination brought on by the magic tattoo ink. This is probably my biggest complaint with the game because Ora is constantly pointing out stuff WAY off screen, acting as the navigator to guide Ninja-Mang toward all of his goals. This begs the question how a hallucination could have any of this information. But then again, I have to wonder if any of this game is happening at all.

Bear with me. What if Ninja-Mang is just some broke-ass white boy who went to a back alley tattoo shop and got a tattoo with moldy ink? All at once, every problem with this story is solved. The bad guy with a cheesy accent attacking a clan for no reason? Drugs, mang. The shitty level designs that sprawl all over the place in nonsensical fashion? Drugs, mang. This way, the story is all about a guy drooling on his shirt and whispering “ninja vanish,” living out a fantasy of what being a ninja is like without actually having a clue of what ninjas do. In any case, I feel my headcanon makes far more sense then the nonsense this story is handing out.

With those spoilers out of the way, now I can talk about the controls, which as I was saying, marred my enjoyment almost throughout the entire game. The first few levels weren’t so bad because I only had a few options for dealing with the sneaking and slaying. But as soon as I started unlocking new items and attack techniques, everything turns into a frozen turd masquerading as a popsicle. Or a poopsicle, if you will.

Take for instance the dive attack. You climb over an enemy, press square when the button prompt flashes, and then, in theory, press square and either up or down on the stick depending on which QTE appears. Only, there are times when it doesn’t appear, so Ninja-Mang would drop with a thud, alerting his would-be victim to turn around and provide him with several free lead samples.

This by itself wouldn’t be bad if it was a random occurrence, or if death didn’t put me back to the last checkpoint. But imagine spending five minutes carefully sneaking and slaying through a maze to arrive almost at the next checkpoint (you can see it as a bird in a circle and a swirling yellow marker) and botch that last assassination due to a wonky button prompt. So, do that again, and then again. See the problem?

Then there’s the movement problems in general. Ninja-Mang can cling to walls and on certain ceilings with handgrips on them. (Leading me to a side thought: “Hey, boss, you wanted this place super secure, right?” “Of course! “Okay, so why do we have handholds installed on the ceilings in strategic places to help someone bypass our security measures?” “Because they look cool! DO NOT QUESTION MY GENIUS!”) But actually getting him to maneuver the transitions between wall and ceiling or vice versa often leads to Ninja-Mang plunging straight down into a horde of soldiers. Similarly, there are puzzle sections requiring clambering around a moving crate to avoid lasers, and Ninja-Mang will often decide he’d much rather take a laser in the butt than actually move to the next side of the box. I had to do these kinds of tasks over and over until he finally decided he wasn’t lasersexual.

THEN there’s the problems with tossed items. You’re supposed to pull the left trigger and use the left stick to aim where these toys land, but the controls are so damned fiddly that I’ve spent way too much time rolling the stick back and forth, swearing loudly because the target I wanted was highlighted only a quarter of a second before the aim indicator veered wildly off in a new direction.

Late in the game, there’s also a teleport power added, with puzzles tasking Ninja-Mang to do stuff crazy fast. As an example, he needs to crank a crate up to the ceiling, run under the crate as it’s dropping back down, pull a lever to open a door, and then target the area behind the door before the crate blocks the shot. With tight controls, this sort of puzzle could be interesting, possibly even fun. But these controls are super sloppy, and this one puzzle took me way too long to complete even though I sorted out the solution ten seconds after Ninja-Mang arrived on the scene.

As I recall, I gave up on the original version pretty early on. I’d gone to YouTube to look at the ending, and everyone I looked up chose the good ending. So I figured, “Hey, why not just do the bad ending to see how it is?” It’s ten seconds long. Seriously, I’ve seen more efforts from NES games, and I’m talking about “Hahaha, thanks Bad Dudes! Let’s go get a burger!” I don’t get it. They made all these fully voice-acted, fully animated cut scenes throughout the rest of the game, but the ending is just meh.

So in the end, I have to give Mark of the Ninja 2 stars. I didn’t like the story, but I can usually forgive that because video games are rarely well written. But coupling that with crap controls and a meh ending, and I can’t find much to recommend this to anyone.

“But Zoe,” you say, “Wasn’t there also a DLC in the remastered version?” Yes, kindly invisible counter-point maker, there is a DLC, and I will review that separately because I am desperate to make new content for you in these financially lean times. I may even do another review based on a pacifist run attempt now that I can do New Game+. Oh, and I’ve got plans to try and turn around the money problems, so hopefully we can get back to more regular reviews soon. But returning to the review at hand, I wouldn’t gift this game to anyone except someone I really loathed and wanted to see suffer. Being honest, I can’t think of anyone I hate that bad. Don’t spend your money on this, yo.