previews\ Jul 17, 2003 at 8:00 pm

I-Ninja - PS2 - Preview 2

As quick as you can, grasshopper, snatch this laser eye from its stand ...

Namco Hometek and Argonaut Games have conspired to release a third-person action-adventure title for the PlayStation2 and GameCube platforms. The name of the program is I-Ninja, and this title promises to have some high-style cinematics to accompany is puzzle-filled gameplay, quick-paced action, and arcade themes. was allowed a peek at the PS2 beta build, and eagerly headed for the nearest dojo to brush up on ninjutsu skills in anticipation of the battles to follow.

I-Ninja is billed as an action-adventure game with the protagonist, I-Ninja undertaking a series of tasks in The World. The islands of The World have been invaded by Master O-Dor’s evil army and the population of The World have been imprisoned. All except I-Ninja, that is. In order to fight back the invaders, I-Ninja must recover the four lost Rage Stones and then confront his nemesis.

En route, he will have to battle hordes of the robotic Ranx, accomplish a wide variety of tasks and gain new powers.

Other game features include:

* Five principle environments in The World including four very different islands and one moon base

* A host of moves for I-Ninja to master in order to form distinctive combat combinations

* A multiple weapon control system in which I-Ninja can throw shuriken, use a blowgun, take over rocket launchers, commandeer enemy robots and, of course, use his sword

* A rewards system that allows I-Ninja to gain a new arsenal of weapons and abilities.

The game has added some exceptional talent to develop cutscenes for the story. Renowned animators and filmmakers Don Bluth and Gary Goldman have signed on and will bring a unique and enchanting element to this game.

At first glimpse, I-Ninja looks a little like a Lego title that was been modified toward a darker mood. The characters do bear some resemblance to the Lego creations but that perception quickly is erased as the game begins. In one of the opening missions, I-Ninja is asked to retrieve a laser eye. This is the type of mission that encapsulates the overall tone of the game. To do so, the hero first enters a door which transports him to the mini-maze that he must navigate to get to his goal. First up is a battle against four opponents, which I-Ninja dispatches quickly. There are some climbing and jumping sequences, a real treat as a variety of moves are demonstrated, including one-handed handstands at the top of a wall. I-Ninja can dispatch a chain to help in leaping across gaps, he can run up and down a half pipe or across a wall, jumping off opposing walls to scale to the platform at the top, or shredding along pipes in a skateboard style.

The laser eye is in a stand that must be shattered, and then, while attached to the orb, I-Ninja must run over enemies and navigate the orb to a hole in a wall. Going through the hole transports the ball to a half-pipe slide filled with obstacles that must be navigated within a certain time to move on.

So much to do, so little time.

The animation in this game is really quite well done. The game physics are sound and the animation is very smooth. The game has varying speeds, so while players will be able to work slowly through some elements, others will require sound gameplay fundamentals and quick reactions. The three-dimensional environments are lush and colorful, and somewhat interactive.

The game sound is merely average at this point. While the special effects are light and fun, the music is very arcade-like.

I-Ninja is meant to be a fun romp filled with simplistic puzzles and more reflexive and timing challenges than much else. While this game may harken back to an earlier gaming style, it still has the hallmarks necessary for a solid title - it is fun. This is the type of game, at least based on what was shown in the preview, that is family-oriented.

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