If there's one thing that's bound to endure the ages, it's the popularity of ninjas. While there aren't many accurate representations out there, there's no shortage of ninja-based games in the market today - and Ninja Must Die by Pandada Games joins the lineup. This online endless runner gives you control over one of several ninjas undertaking various missions. The controls are focused on jumping, flipping around tightropes, and using abilities to attack. There are also a lot of shiny collectibles and powerups to find along the way. Should you prove yourself, you may be able to join the online ranks of the mobile ninjas… who don't die.
Something shared among ninja content is just how dramatic and complex their stories can get. Ninja Must Die has the drama, and a story that's easier to follow than most. As the recent ninja graduate Kuro, you learn that the ninja clans have come under attack. During the investigation, he learns that the samurai are behind a majority of the attacks even though peace has existed between the two factions for years. Being one of the few remaining active ninjas, Kuro must find who's leading these attacks and save whatever's left of the ninjas. In short, you need to find out why the ninja must die.
Like any effective ninja (presumably), you need to be swift and efficient. Ninja Must Die achieves this in its gameplay. It has managed to create an endless runner that has the elements of an action platformer. Each level sees your selected ninja running up and down slopes, leaping across gaps, going through traps, fighting enemies, and taking down bosses. The efficiency comes from the streamlined nature of its controls which are few enough to remember, but more than enough to make for challenging reaction gameplay. It's also built to allow you a way through any situation. If you don't build up enough attack power, you'll still be able to make it through by jumping and flipping.
Then there's the online aspect of the game, which is reminiscent of competitive titles and some gacha games. You're given ways to pull different weapons and ninjas from the arches to change up your movement and the kinds of attacks you use. It may take a while to get the things you want, but it's very difficult to hit a wall in this game. You're given plenty of energy to go through the story levels collecting money, materials, and treasures to make your ninja stronger as needed. There are also plenty of alternatives to the story which have the same feel while changing up the context, rewards, difficulty, and layout. The story and missions are enjoyable, but the online endless running gives an extra rush of excitement, especially when you surpass other players.
Even ninjas aren't enough to distract from the issues of the media they inhabit, and Ninja Must Die is one of them. The other types of activities are necessary because the variety of story missions can feel lacking at times. Occasionally, new elements are introduced in a level before becoming a common staple, causing the novelty to quickly wear off. You just have to hope that something new will be introduced soon after you've already gotten used to avoiding the latest new hazard. On that note, the story levels can be surprisingly easy without any strain on your part. The objectives to obtain the stars sound daunting, but many times are knocked out within the first third of the level. The story missions are necessary for player progression so there's at least the promise of more accessibility.
Ninja Must Die is a 2D endless runner with an online component making for a fast-paced action platformer. It does a lot to make its running format organic and exciting while having a nice variety of other gameplay modes and content. The story missions can be too easy and boring while lacking variety themselves, but you need them to expand the gameplay. If ninja must die, make sure that they do it in style.