Rabbits have never been so deadly
Ninjin: Clash of Carrots is a new Beat ‘em up game for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4 and PC. The game has both online and offline co-op and is best enjoyed with a friend. We had an early look at this game and were excited for its release. You play as Ninjin, a Ninja Rabbit, or his companion, Akai the fox, as you hunt down your village’s stolen carrots. We are currently witnessing a resurgence of the Beat ‘em up genre, following games like Samurai Riot and Raging Justice, as well as the recently announced Streets of Rage 4. Ninjin is trying to differentiate itself with its bright colours and infinite runner influences, but is it worth picking up?
The goal of the game is to reclaim the carrots stolen from your village by Shogun Moe’s army. In this world, carrots are both food and currency, and you use the carrots you collect to unlock new weapons, artefacts and cosmetics. Along the way, you will to clear waves of the Shogun’s troops and defeat his generals.
The mechanics of the game are very simple; you can attack, dash, dash attack, throw projectiles and use a screen-clearing special move. Despite this, there is a very high skill ceiling and later levels will be testing your accuracy and stamina management to the limit. Your character is constantly running forward, so things on the floor trail behind you and are left behind, whether it is an enemy projectile, all-important carrots or a chest with a new unlock. You can only swing your sword in front of you, which forces you to reposition behind enemies. A limited move pool would suggest repetitive gameplay, but Ninjin stays fresh due the huge variety of weapons, enemies and levels.
Stab a bear with a lamppost? Why not?
The weapons are all different in terms of stats, themes and elemental bonuses. You have your standard swords and axes, but you can also wield a fishing rod, a ham or a tree trunk. Some levels require you to change up your strategy so you will not be able to just stick to any singular weapon type as the game progresses. For example, if you are fighting enemies that turn invisible, you may want to use a weapon with a fire element to help you see them better.
The enemies are diverse and each one has specific weaknesses to exploit. Standard grunts can only attack what is in front of them, explosive enemies can deal a lot of damage but can also friendly fire and stamina-draining enemies are immobile and cannot touch your health. Figuring out how to best eliminate every unit is an important aspect of choosing your gear.
Ninjin leads its charm offensive with a light-hearted story and comedic tone. Many of the classic games in this genre have no narrative whatsoever, but the silly tale about stealing carrots creates some funny moments and surprisingly interesting characters. The dialogue is ridiculous and dorky and wouldn’t sound out of place on Cartoon Network. Enemy units have little introductions with their names and they will often banter with you before entering the fray.
One of the most memorable moments involved the basic grunt unit getting an introduction a fair way into the game. He was so excited to be introduced formally, but it turns out he was just a decoy for a new invisible unit to stab him in the back and take his spotlight. There is also an environmentalist ice troll, a pair of dude-bro laser units and Shogun Moe’s bratty son, Moe Jr. It’s weird and funny, making it easy to become invested in the game.
Come on down
The Oni TV endless mode is an innovative game mode that will appeal to casual and serious players alike. Given only the starting gear, the player is tasked with defeating randomised waves of enemies. Every 3-4 waves, you get to choose between 3 pieces of gear to equip to your character. The more you know about the game, the better your choices will be. Initially, you are simply looking for the “strongest” items, however later choices could end up sabotaging your current perfect build. You also unlock items that are used in the main campaign after defeating every 10 waves up to wave 100. However, if you aren’t a fan of this mode, you have few other options in terms of replayability excluding a weapon collect-a-thon.
Ninjin brings a unique charm but is by no means perfect. The pixel art style, while colourful and vibrant, is not the best of its kind and the animations are nothing special. The soundtrack is also quite repetitive and does not contribute in a meaningful way to the overall experience. At times, the action on screen can be very hectic and it is quite easy to lose your character, especially when playing in co-op. However, these complaints are minor and, despite its flaws, the game has a unique identity and succeeds in what it set out to do.
In conclusion, Ninjin: Clash of Carrots is a fully functional and very enjoyable game. The game delivers exactly what it says on the box but nothing more. However, it is a must-have for any Beat ‘em up fan and is a breath of fresh air for the genre. It is a fine addition to the co-op Nindie catalogue and is well worth your time and investment.