The Ninjabot

Nano Ninjas for iOS Has a New Take on Tower Defense Gameplay

Posted on November 4, 2012 at 5:03 pm by Amanda Andonian

Quick Review: Despite its slow beginning, Nano Ninjas is well worth the $0.99 price tag with engrossing tower defense gameplay and cute minigames. Add the great art and silly storyline, and this game gets a 4 out of 5 stars from me.

I love getting a first crack at new games before I’ve heard anyone else talk about them (makes me feel like I’m in the know), so this week I’m reviewing Nano Ninjas from Bad Chunk Ltd., new on iOS as of last Thursday. Nano Ninjas is a “tower defense” game, but rather than building and upgrading buildings, you’re deploying and upgrading ninjas that defend your village from an onslaught of evil robots. Kind of surprised they didn’t just call this “Ninjas vs. Robots.” At each level, you start out with a certain amount of “zen” (the in-game currency), and you spend zen on troops, defenses, and booby traps. Pretty simple and easy to pickup.

Where Nano Ninjas is different is in the ways that you can build up more zen. Instead of only gaining more resources when you defeat enemies, your ninjas and monks also have the ability to meditate, which will give you a boost in zen depending on how much you’ve upgraded your troops. The tradeoff is that they can’t fight while they’re meditating, so if you need more resources to continue building up your defenses, but can’t spare any of your fighters to meditate for the boost, then you’re in a heap of trouble.

The game starts off pretty slowly, which almost made me give up on it entirely. Since you initially have only ninjas, monks, and some rudimentary defenses, it takes forever to finish off the oncoming forces, making for a tedious beginning. Also, I think that Nano Ninjas spends way too much time trying to teach you how to play, which adds to the plodding nature of the tutorials. I want to be dropped into the action right away, not spend 20 minutes waiting for it to finish showing me what the gameplay is.

On the other hand, they don’t make it very clear in the beginning what scoring is based off of. It wasn’t until I got about three or four levels in that I finally found out that my points were based off of how many ninjas I had in the battlefield, how much of my defenses I had lost, whether I’d had to depend on bombs to blow up enemies, and how much zen I had left at the end of the level. I think this makes the scoring a little too complicated, but for those who have to have 3 stars on every level, it’ll definitely make more a ton more re-playability.

Fortunately, once you get past those first few levels, things pick up considerably. You get more troop and defense options, the ability to upgrade, and  pretty awesome dragon power up that sweeps part of the field clear of foes. When you finally have a battlefield filled with enemy combatants, rockets being launched, and balls of energy flying through the air, it makes for a much more exciting experience.

Another plus in the game’s favor is the art direction and storyline. The characters, scenery, and maps all have a very clear design and art style, which helps make the game feel more cohesive, as well as set the tone of this somewhat silly game. I don’t really care about story in iOS games—I just want to get to the action—so I appreciate that the “cut scenes” are not super long in Nano Ninjas. It’s not a game that takes itself too seriously, and that’s made obvious by the amusing item and character descriptions, loopy music, and cartoony art style.

As you progress through the game, you’ll also unlock several cute little mini-games, which include dropping melons on passersby (they’re trying to catch them, you’re not trying to hit the people with them), blowing up robots, and playing a bamboo hungry panda. They don’t add a whole lot to the game, but it’s a little extra something that Bad Chunk Ltd. didn’t have to include, so I’ll give them props for building in extra re-playability into the game.

At $0.99, Nano Ninjas is pretty well worth the money you pay, and you can find it in the Apple App Store here. It’s a universal app, so once you buy it, you can download it to both your iPhone and your iPad. You can check out the gameplay in the trailer below:

You can follow Amanda on Twitter at @reiko516.

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