I mentioned this game in my article on Gunpoint, saying that it’s a more subtle affair than its door-kicking, fedora-wearing cousin. After all, you’re a ninja, not some graceless dolt who tried out his new jumping trousers by launching himself head-first out of his apartment window like a suicidal Goomba. Grace, stealth and finesse are to be expected.
In Mark of the Ninja, you play as the Marked Ninja, also known as the Champion. You are accompanied by Ora, a female ninja assassin, whose voice provides guidance and information as you roam among the shadows.
As the Marked Ninja, you are armed with a blade. As per the teachings on the clan, you will only draw your blade when the kill is certain. The enemies are too well-trained to be brought down by you if they notice your presence, and you are no match for them in a face-to-face fight. You also have an unlimited amount of darts, but they are all about as lethal as tofu, only serving as distractions at best. Aside from those, you’re equipped with, by default, one distraction item and one attack item. You have a grappling hook as well, but those are strictly for mobility and for one particular execution technique
And in a game where guards have gun and are pretty much invulnerable when they detect you, you need to use the environment to your advantage. Hide behind vases, use gongs as distractions, and stay perched above prying eyes as you slither along the map to your objective. You are a ninja after all, and stealth is your forte. Also, as you progress, you unlock tokens based on your performances, which allows you to unlock more items and techniques.
Every kill must be set up just right. Timing is everything in each kill. Observe the rhythm in the guards’ movements, or disrupt their original paths to lure them to their deaths.
When an execution is initiated, the background goes to black as the Champion draws in his victim for the kill. The remaining corpse could be what set off an alarm at the worst times, but in the right situation it could also scare the guards into a nervous, gibbering wreck, setting them up for another kill as they stare nervously into the shadows.
You can customize your loadout for the mission, with the suits being unlocked with certain tokens. For example, if you have a stealth-heavy playstyle, you unlock the tokens for the Path of Silence faster, granting you a new suit which makes you extremely stealthy and having two distraction items instead of one. This comes at the cost of your attack item and your sword.
The different styles, represented by the different costumes, change your playstyle dramatically. Some suits are better for stealth, while some are better for an aggressive approach. Using the different suits, as well as unlocking them, adds a fair bit of replay value to the game.
The game comes with a DLC, which includes a small campaign and developer commentary. The campaign is Dosan’s Tale, a small spinoff story about Dosan, the man who gave you your tattoos. The tattoos marked you as the Champion, the chosen defender of the ninja clan, and grants you supernatural powers. Dosan’s Tale narrates the story of Dosan’s younger days as he went off to the desert to ensure that the ink’s supply is maintained.
Dosan plays slightly different from the Marked Ninja in that he is mostly a nonlethal character, preferring takedowns instead of driving blades through people. The knocked-out guards can be awakened by other passing guards, causing them to raise the alarm and become a major pain to deal with. However, he isn’t completely averse to killing, as environmental kills are still fair game. Completing this DLC campaign unlocks Dosan’s costume for use in the main campaign.
The story of Mark of the Ninja is rather interesting, and worth paying attention to. It is an intriguing narrative with a twist at the end. Do play through the game to find out about it yourself. And do yourself a favour, don’t skip the cutscenes.
Gameplay-wise, the game provides clear indication of how visible you are to the guards at all times, which is a key information to convey to the player. Aside from that, visual representation of sound is also present in the form of faint blue ripples from the source of sound, with the size of the ripple indicating how far the range of the sound is. The controls are smooth and precise. Although I personally find some of the default keybinds annoying, that is rather easily fixed.
Overall, I heartily recommend Mark of the Ninja, especially if you are a fan of stealth games. It isn’t a very long game, but it’s well worth the price. You can take a look at its Steam store page here.