Last week, I spent my time thanklessly looking after a pointless little blob of yellow, but this week I get to spend it with a ninja. I'd say that things are looking up already.
Clumsy Ninja is from NaturalMotion, a company with a pedigree for putting out games with exceptional presentation and addictive freemium gameplay.
Can it do the same for hapless martial artists? Find out as I put Clumsy Ninja through its paces.
My ninja is adorable.
He has large, innocent-looking eyes, he giggles when I tickle him, and I can detect the faint outline of a huge grin under his mask when I rub his head for a job well done.
The things I can do with my ninja range from serious ninja activities, such as bouncing on a trampoline, to mischievous and (comically) violent ones. I've put in an hour or so with him, and I've already chucked a watermelon at his head, and tied balloons to his feet to watch him float away.
But for all the punishment I give him, he always gets back up unscathed.
Which is a good thing, because he's got a friend to rescue, and he'll need to train harder than Goku if he's going to save her.
Training comes in the form of the aforementioned trampoline exercise, kicking wooden boxes, and flailing at a weight bag. You'll need to take part in each of these activities, but largely in a passive role. You'll tap the boxes to direct your ninja to attack them, or hold the punching bag up so he can strike it.
It's all very light-hearted, but it's also all very lightweight. So far I've enjoyed my time with Clumsy Ninja, but I'm hoping for something more substantial in the days that follow.
Day 3: Eye of the tiger
For the last few days, I've been really working hard on my tuck jump. Well, I haven't been working on my tuck jump. But my ninja? He has. He's hardcore.
While games like My Horse place emphasis on care and improving skills, Clumsy Ninja concentrates almost all of its focus on training. Sure, you have to put your ninja to bed each night if you want a nifty log-in bonus the next day, but other than that you needn't care for him in the traditional sense of the word.
What you do need to be concerned with is ensuring that he's training just as hard as he can. I now have a couple of different basketball hoops that I can throw my ninja at to earn much-needed XP, and I've been forcing him to drink all sorts of potions that affect his balance and set his body spinning and flailing wildly.
Unfortunately, there isn't that much more to see or do, so I've been performing the same activities multiple times per session, and that can become dull.
This would be a bit disheartening, if it weren't for the fact that you can clearly see his skills evolve and improve.
Where once he would fall on his backside if I flung him through the air, now he lands on his feet almost every time. It's the same with the punch bag: he's making contact with his hits nine times out of ten, where previously he would throw a punch, miss by a mile, and stumble forward like a drunk swan.
There's a satisfaction to be found the first time your ninja strings together a good combo of hits - it's a fantastic visual reward for persistence in your training, and one of the major factors keeping me coming back.
Day 7: Rising up
The other major factor keeping me playing is my ninja's personality.
When I pick my ninja up by his feet and he's suspended in the air, he will react in any number of different ways. Sometimes, he scrambles to hold onto the ground, while other times he'll go limp and accept whatever fate awaits him. Occasionally, he'll cross his arms and look toward the screen, an expression of exasperation across his face as he rolls his eyes.
When he thinks he's performed an action well, he'll throw a bashful glance in your direction, sidle up to the screen, and hold up his hand. Instinctively, you high five him - you'd never leave a brother hanging, would you? - and he gives you two thumbs-up, looking ever-so-pleased with himself.
The most endearing thing about my ninja, though, is that he makes mistakes. He trips and stumbles; he fumbles and slips. He does what all humans do: he errs from time to time.
All of this combined enables you to - very briefly - forget that you're interacting with code, and instead start to see him as a heart, body, and mind.
What Clumsy Ninja can lack, however, is a bit of soul, as slightly too often you feel the hand of the money makers in the gameplay.
It's not an intrusive scream to buy premium currency; it's a barely audible whine reminding you that you haven't paid out any money and that it really would be groovy if you coughed up some dough. It's definitely there, though.
One final note on the presentation - it's ace. The music, visuals, and animation are all excellent, though it takes a little bit of time to get used to the UI design. The developer has done a superb job of capturing the atmosphere of a training ground: its natural colours and textures, and its serene soundscape punctuated by the occasional chi shout.
Clumsy Ninja is more lightweight than we might have hoped. But interacting with its star never fails to delight and amaze in equal measure, making it well worth further investigation.How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below. Click here to learn about our free-to-play review policy.