The facts that Ninja Pong shares part of its name with Pong and involves a paddle mean that comparisons between the two games are inevitable, even though the former has more in common with Breakout and the numerous clones it inspired.
The twist is that, while most block-breaking games focus on destruction, your actions in Ninja Pong actually contribute to something productive. It's a charming variation on a classic arcade genre, though its lack of depth and variation lets it down.
According to the game, a ninja’s most important ability is nothing to do with assassination, sabotage, or stealth, but bouncing. It's therefore most unfortunate that they are incapable of completing these jumps without your assistance.
Ninjas jump either bravely or stupidly off a platform with the aim of reaching the other side of the screen. You have to predict their trajectories and move your paddle by sliding your finger to ensure they reach their destination safely.
Ninjas will normally jump in a manageable stream, but when the sky turns dark, ninjas flood the screen in a frantic manner, contradicting their secretive reputation. Some ninjas, such as hover ninjas or flag ninjas, also exhibit behaviours that require you to stay on your toes.
This job is made easier through power-ups that fall from the sky and are collected with your paddle. These include paddle extenders and metal powers that can withstand the otherwise game-ending bombs.
The aim of the two modes is to register as high a score as possible. In Arcade mode you're playing against the clock and in Endless you have a limited number of lives.
Points are scored by helping ninjas across, building up streaks, and collecting multipliers, with bonuses awarded at the end of the game for completing achievements such as extended streaks, destroying bombs, or helping a certain number of ninjas make the jump.
New lands are unlocked by reaching a specific score, but these have little impact on the game. Ninja Pong’s hook encourages you to make repeated attempts to beat your score, but this lack of variation means it can get stale rather quickly.
This is offset somewhat by the introduction of items, which you can buy using coins that fall from the sky. These range from superficial upgrades like funny hats, which suit the game’s wonderfully cute art style, to new paddles and abilities, which can help you achieve even higher scores.
These help to keep things fresh and provide extra incentives to beat your high score, but they distort totals, especially when coins can be bought via in-app purchases. However, fortunately for purists, some leaderboards only rank scores that don’t use these extras.
Ninja Pong’s cutesy graphics, ease of use, and simplistic gameplay make it incredibly accessible, but not very deep. It'll hold your interest for a while, but no more.