Mark of the Ninja PC Review: Great Stealth Hampered by Controls

It’s hard not to be influenced by the raving most everyone in the gaming community has done about Mark of the Ninja.

The side-scrolling platformer pretty much nails stealth. The game does a phenomenal job of balancing detection systems based on darkness and light, sound emanations and line of sight, and provides a ton of tools that allow creative players to distract and sneak their way through some well-designed and challenging levels.

This is a game that does a great job not only providing players with a number of tools to make them stealthy, but by creating intuitive and polished systems that make that stealth work well and consistently. You always know exactly what stupid thing you did to get yourself caught, and you always learn something from every mistake or encounter.

Except, of course, those done inadvertently because of the controls you’re working with, and that’s the one drawback of snagging Mark of the Ninja on PC, as opposed to getting the Xbox Live Arcade version that was released last month. Klei’s port of the stealth darling isn’t bad, but playing on a keyboard results in a lot of irritating mistakes in which you’ll find yourself throwing your cel-shaded ninja at guards accidentally when what you meant to do was jump to a nearby ledge or carefully look out through a vent.

Mark of the Ninja: PC (reviewed), Xbox 360
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Released: Oct. 16, 2012 (PC)
MSRP: $14.99

That’s me nitpicking, however. Even with the slightly obtrusive keyboard controls, Mark of the Ninja is a delightful stealth experience that gets an insane number of things right and keeps the faults to a minimum.

Players take on the role of a very special ninja, charged with getting some sweet vengeance after his clan is attacked. Your ninja is known as The Champion, and he’s been given special tattoos that help him accomplish the task before him. Those tattoos give him nifty powers, like the capability of seeing through walls and a short-distance almost-teleport ability. But they also slowly drive him crazy, or so the story goes, and all Champions take an oath to take their own lives upon completion of their missions, lest they find themselves going crazy and hurting the clan rather than helping it.

Despite the fact that you have a couple of superpowers, they really don’t factor in too much to Mark of the Ninja’s overall gameplay, and this is a good thing. Instead, the game is about patience and carefully sneaking through the game’s often very vertical levels. There are usually a lot of different ways through an area of the map or around an obstacle (though not always), and so you can climb over rooftops or sneak through subterranean tunnels with quite a bit of regularity.

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