Review Fix Exclusive: Q & A With ‘Mark of the Ninja’ Developer Nels Anderson

Review Fix chats with “Mark of the Ninja” developer Nels Anderson to get an inside scoop at what looks to be one of the coolest X-Box Live Arcade games released this year.

A 2D side-scrolling ninja stealth game, it has to be seen to be believed.

You can learn more about the game here.

Before you read the Q & A, check out the trailer, below:

Review Fix: How will “Mark of the Ninja” appeal to casual gamers?

Nils Anderson: While it wasn’t an explicit goal from the outside, I think Mark of the Ninja has ended up actually being a very accessible stealth game. I love stealth games, but I understand why some people might find them inaccessible. Often the core knowledge required to be successful in a stealth game is actually presented very opaquely, and players just have to throw themselves against it until things start to make sense. By making clarity of information and rich feedback some core design principles, hopefully Ninja will appeal to folks who normally don’t like stealth games. Additionally, as a 2D sidescroller, it doesn’t demand the same level of situational awareness that 3D 1st / 3rd person games do.

Review Fix: How will “Mark of the Ninja” appeal to hardcore gamers?

Anderson: I consider myself pretty serious about stealth games and I’d definitely be disappointed if we didn’t deliver something that would live up to my expectation of a stealth game. Fortunately, I don’t think we’ve done that. Ninja makes a point of offering a lot of player choice, opt-in difficulty via optional objectives, hidden items that encourage exploration and pretty different New Game+ mode. Additionally, it’s possible (albeit not easy) to make your way through the entire game without killing any enemies, aside from a couple of named NPCs that you’re specifically tasked with dispatching.

Review Fix: The trailer is a ton of fun: does that experience of tricking enemies play a big part in the game?

Anderson: Absolutely. The player’s character is very much a glass cannon—very powerful, but also very vulnerable in a lot of situations. So to be successful and either take down or sneak past enemies, players will need to deceive and manipulate them. The player has a lot of options at their disposal for doing so—equipment, objects in the environment, light / darkness, etc.

Review Fix: What’s your favorite gameplay element in the game?

Anderson: There’s a lot I like, but the ninja’s movement abilities I’m very fond of. As the game is in 2D, you can’t rely on the movement dynamics of 3D stealth games, where you can just hide around a corner if an enemy is coming since, whoops, there are no corners in 2D. So one of the ways the ninja can avoid detection is by being a lot more mobile than the guards. From climbing on walls and ceilings, to the grappling hook, to other abilities that come later in the game, the speed and smoothness at which the ninja maneuvers is something I’m quite happy with.

Review Fix: What did you learn while making this game?

Anderson: Making something that really hasn’t been done before (2D stealth) is really, really hard. Especially when something requires breaking this much new ground, iteration and experimentation is absolutely critical. Getting that iteration loop up and going as soon as possible is really important. And getting everyone on the same page creatively is not easy and requires constant vigilance.

Review Fix: How much is there to do in this title?

Anderson: Heh, “a lot” I suppose. The game is definitely quite large, and we intentionally set for difficulty to be manifested by optional challenges, rather than big progression blockers. Between all the optional challenges, hidden items, new game+ and the simple size of the game, I think most folks would be pleasantly surprised at how much there is in Ninja.

Review Fix: How do you want the game to be remembered, say next year at this time?

Anderson: Ideally, it will be the first 2D stealth game of this scope and it helped a lot of people understand why stealth games, and the dynamics that come out of them, are interested, different and very rich.

Review Fix: Why should someone go out and buy this?

Anderson: Because it’s a game that’s very much unlike the standard run & gun, power fantasy fare. It feels great and controls really well. Plus, it’s absolutely gorgeous, both in terms of the animation and the environments (or at least I think our artists really hit it out of the park in this regard). While I love 2D games with a retro, nostalgic feel, there still a lot that can be done with in 2D with modern technology and hardware that’s fresh and beautiful. There really aren’t a lot of games like Mark of the Ninja out there, so I’m hoping folks appreciate that we tried to do something really new.

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Patrick Hickey Jr.

Editor-in-Chief, Founder at Review Fix
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the upcoming book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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About Patrick Hickey Jr. 6922 Articles

Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the upcoming book, “The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers,” from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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