[Guest review by Xander]
Nikujin (direct link) is a bit of an oddity. It was created by a person known as ‘Ikiki’. And that’s everything I know about the creator, except that he created one of my favourite 2D-platformers. In Nikujin you play a ninja, who’s goal is to progress through a ninja fortress of increasing difficulty, utilising your ninja skills to ensure your survival. There’s no real tutorial to the game, so to run through quickly, the arrow keys are your directional movements, Shift is jump and Ctrl is your sword attack. Now, whilst this game looks simple, especially given it’s incredibly basic style, the gameplay gets a little more complicated.
There are special tricks to the game, which you can only really learn through experimentation. For instance, holding down when landing from a height allows you to roll, so that you don’t hurt yourself. If you land on top of an enemy, pressing down will stab your sword into his head, killing him instantly. You can then jump from there to get a vertical boost, from where you can hold up to cling to the ceiling. You can also hold up to run up walls, also achievable mid-jump, or whilst clinging onto the ceiling provided you are very close to a 90 degree corner. It’s certainly easier to learn through practice, as you will meet obstacles that will push you into realizing your capabilities as a ninja. For instance, you run at a set speed, but if you walk into a wall and then immediately run the other direction you will use the force to launch into a continuous sprint gaining you a significant leaping boost. Combat takes a back seat to the platforming, it’s really just a case of slashing the enemy a few times, or killing him before he’s noticed you, indicated by the Metal Gear Solid-style icons above their head.
Now, I wont lie to you. This game is hard. So hard. So very very hard. In fact, despite being one of my favourite games, I’ve never actually completed it. You have unlimited lives, but you restart at the beginning of each level every time you die. Bottomless pits, ninja assassins, leg-breaking falls, bamboo spikes, suicidal powder-keg lugging nutjobs and even a wannabe Musashi are just a taste of what will kill you over and over again until you finally master that level, where you promptly die again and again on the next one. It’s a punishing game, but thanks to an update, the game is now continuable from the start of the furthest level you reached. There are also bonus modes to take your mind off of the main game, such as a very painful time-trial which oddly features hints in the background of the techniques I mentioned earlier, even though half of the TT is actually far harder than a lot of the game. There’s also a survival mode, where an old bed-ridden…someone… is charged under your protection and you have to slay his would-be-assassins.
The music I must mention is pretty fantastic. It’s all midi, all the time, but there are some really catchy tunes in there. The survival mode track is particularly entertaining, and a nice song to slash arteries to. It can be a very fun game, it can also be an incredibly frustrating game, it all depends on how well you’re doing basically. It’s worth a play at the very least, and who knows, you might even finish the damn thing before I do.
P.S. There’s a rumour about bonus levels after completing the main game without continuing. I urge you not to attempt this, as you will undoubtedly find yourself tearing your computer apart with your own feet, unable to explain to your concerned family that the game was forcing itself upon you with it’s devilish trickery. Please, think of the children.