Mark of the Ninja knows something that many stealth games do not: good stealth is about feeling like you’re Batman. Good stealth makes you feel powerful when you’re waiting. Good stealth isn’t about combat, but puzzles. Good stealth makes failure fun. Good stealth isn’t about mastering a skillset, but about offering a power fantasy. Mark of the Ninja is good stealth.
Right off the bat, the 2D side-on aesthetic is both something new and, in my head, overpoweringly obvious to the design of an effective stealth experience. By essentially turning the game into a map, it allows the player incredible, immediate ability to survey the landscape and devise a plan of attack, without ever needing to swap to another screen. This results in lightning-fast gameplay that makes you feel like you know your environment so much better than the person in the room waiting for an enemy they don’t know is right below them.
Mark of the Ninja makes you feel like a predator, and something predators do a lot is wait for their prey. You will wait a lot in Mark of the Ninja, but it never becomes boring because every period of waiting is a chance to think of a new way to mess with the head of your prey before swooping in for the kill. At the end of the day, you want Mark of the Ninja to score you in a way that reflects upon your amazing ability to turn murder into art. This makes every level a collection of puzzle pieces that are just waiting for you to arrange them in the perfect way.
Someone could complain that Mark of the Ninja is too easy compared to its stealth peers. I say its peers are too hard, and miss the point of good stealth. Failure in a stealth game – nay, any game – should feel like your fault, not the game’s. Too many stealth games offer overwhelmingly difficult tasks in the hope that you will one day come to master their complicated systems. Mark of the Ninja does away with this and offers you an accessible power fantasy with freedom for experimentation. Failure will come in Mark of the Ninja, but it offers you the opportunity for some on-the-fly improvisation to clear the room and disappear before the backup arrives. The result is a game that is entirely your own. Be the Batman you’ve always wanted to be.
In my opinion, if you’re making a game and you want to tell a story, or have some sort of higher message, you need to make it work in tandem with what it is you do in the game. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a mix of The Legend of Zelda, shoot-em-ups and rogue-likes that explores the positive and negative effects that religion can have on a child’s upbringing, along with parental abuse, sexual identity, disease and crying on enemies to kill them. And, believe me when I say, the mechanics and the theming blend seamlessly.
There’s an item in the game called Wooden Spoon. Upon picking it up, you’re told you’ve received an increase to your Speed stat. Your body is then showered in cuts and bruises. In a second and a half, you’ve had your gameplay altered and been delivered a heartbreaking story. No cutscene. No dialogue. Just an increased variable and an altered graphic.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is brutally difficult, but, like designer Edmund McMillen’s previous title, Super Meat Boy, it’s been developed with that in mind. Where the former decreased the amount of time between ‘Game Over’ and ‘Try Again’ to almost zero, here he implements various rogue-like mechanics (specifically, permanent death and randomised dungeon layout/item drops) to make a game where success does and doesn’t matter. Death isn’t looked upon as failure, but as a chance to try out a new combination of items and see how far they get you.
Also, why the remake and not the original? There’s just way more content. And a game with a foundation this strong can never have enough. Yes, you may have a run that’s horrifically unbalanced, but that’s all part of the fun. If it’s not balanced in your favour, just see how far you can get this time. Who knows? You might find a new item that adds a new puzzle piece to the story, and if not, you’re only a few mistakes away from trying again.
With Episode 002 almost ready to publish, it’s time to find out what we’ve rolled for our next ‘1st 10 Minutes’.
Somehow, we each got lucky enough to roll a game we love, but do we share each others’ opinions? Tune in to find out!
We have reviewed the turnaround time for our recording, editing and reviewing. Also taking into account the feedback we have received about your listening habits, the weekly podcast will now go live on Sunday evenings.
So stay tuned, Episode 002 will be here soon. It’s a doozy, Tony tries to explain board game rules using only the power of the human voice. Steve and Aaron were intentionally board 😉
We’re eager beavers. Episode 1 isn’t even recorded yet and we have rolled our random games for Episode 2.
We have all rolled the dice, and our fates are sealed (particularly Aaron’s). The games selected for us by RandomSteamGame are:
We shall soon be discussing our experiences of The 1st 10 Minutes of these titles.