Posted on August 14, 2013, Stephen Heller Ninja Pizza Girl Preview: Family Values
Tucked away in the back corner of PAX Australia, away from the chaos of all the other indie games, Disparity Games manned their small booth with determination. I must have passed by a dozen times before Jason Stark grabbed my attention, and pulled me in to check out their latest effort, Ninja Pizza Girl. Described as “Mirror’s Edge for pizza delivery,” he didn’t need to twist my arm any further.
In the not too distant future, urban congestion has gotten so bad that the only way to deliver a pizza across town in under thirty minutes is to use the skills of underpaid teenage ninjas. You take control of Ninja Pizza Girl, a teenager helping her family-run pizzeria stand a chance against the evil pizza corporations. With gameplay that feels like a 2D Mirror’s Edge, players simply have to deliver the pizza while navigating the rooftops and avoiding enemies. It’s nothing too complex, but the sway of our ninja delivery girl feels just right, and the thought of playing it on PC with a keyboard over a touchscreen really piqued my interest.
“We’ve tweaked it as nicely as we can for the iPad, but nothing beats holding a controller or using a keyboard,” explained Jason Stark, programmer on the project. When Ninja Pizza Girl is released for PC gamers, they can also expect a nice graphical boost and a better frame rate.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Ninja Pizza Girl is that the story takes elements from the Stark family’s daily lives. It turns out that Jason’s oldest daughter was at one time a pizza delivery driver who practiced karate, and they would make jokes about her being a ninja pizza girl. Disparity Games is largely a family operation, with Jason and his wife Nicole at the helm, and their sixteen year old daughter Raven providing the 2D art and character concepts.
Jason and Nicole Stark didn’t fall into Disparity Games right away. Both worked at the now defunct Krome Studios in Australia, Nicole as a 3D artist and Jason as a programmer. They are using those skills to lay the foundations for their independent venture, and have opened the doors for the rest of their family to get experience in the industry. Raven wasn’t the only one working the booth when I stopped by. Even their youngest daughter was dressed in an adorable Ninja Pizza Girl costume and was pulling people into the booth to test out their new game.
Disparity Games are actively seeking a female audience with Ninja Pizza Girl, a task that is certainly important to them. “Ninja Pizza Girl is a real girl, not a guy dressed up as a girl,” Nicole comments. “She’s from a genuine female perspective, and she kicks butt!”
When I was sixteen, I was too busy trying to finish Grand Theft Auto III, and working a dodgy part-time job to earn enough cash to purchase a new game. Raven says that working with her parents is fairly intersting, giving her “the experience of actually working [in the industry] without having a douchey boss.”
Ninja Pizza Girl tells a story that is close to the inner workings of Disparity Games, and in my short demo session I realized just how much of the development team is inside the game. Here’s hoping that this tight family unit can deliver a fun, whimsical adventure featuring ninjas, and more importantly, pizza. Ninja Pizza Girl is set for release in Q1, 2014 for iOS, Android and PC. A Steam release is on the horizon, but nothing has been confirmed at this stage.