Adult Swim Games and Megadev had a hit success with the flash browser version of Super House of Dead Ninjas. Now the game is back, spruced up with a few new additions and making its retail/downloadable debut. With a host of new features in which to cloak yourself , is it a pleasureful ninja strike from the dark or just an errant nunchuck flip to the crotch?
30 Second Review
(+) Retro feel all around, from scan lines to sound effects, gameplay and soundtrack
(+) Tons of content via randomly generated levels and unlockables
(+) Custom content supported with Steam Workshop integration
(-) Gamepad not supported at launch without 3rd party software download (Joy2Key)
Cloaked In Old School Fashion
Admittedly influenced by NES smash hit Ninja Gaiden as well as C64 hit Impossible Mission, Super House of Dead Ninjas is an 8-bit romp through a 350-level tower/fortress called the Ziggurat of Inifinium. Your Crimson Ninja starts with a sword, a cache of Shuriken, bombs and a lightning spell. After a quick run through a small set of rooms to brief you on the controls, you are off and running. You have a set number of lives to make it from level 350 to level 1, including battles with three bosses and randomly generated levels and enemies. You’ll be able to take advantage of 2 continues, but once those are spent, it’s game over.
Each of the tools has its own specific use. Shuriken are used for ranged attacks over barriers, while you reserve the sword for when enemies are in close range. Bombs are great to drop into a group of enemies from a ledge or to blast special tiles. The gameplay is further driven by a nagging timer; die and it resets, but let it run out and one of your lives will be taken. Time extension pickups can be found, but you’ll find yourself running and slashing through enemies like a quarterback battling the play clock. More weapons, spells, explosives and costumes can be unlocked by reaching goals within the game, either by killing certain numbers of enemies or fulfilling certain requirements.
Out Of The Shadows Into Greatness
The gameplay is fast, frantic and highly addicting. It has all the flair and “I’ll do better on the next run” addiction of a mobile game but adds much more and plays better on a big screen. The graphics are a great blend of old and new: not quite as jagged as us older gamers remember, but spiced up with scan lines and the right amount of retro feel. Even the sound affects and music conjure up memories of midi tracks and PC speaker sound effects from the gloryday.
I can’t say enough about how much I’m enjoying the game. Unlockables are fantastic; your sword will quickly be shed for nunchucks or a whip, or maybe even a baseball bat or flamethrower. Bombs are pretty cool, but grenades are even better. Shuriken are fun, but bouncing bettie type bombs are even better…. You get the idea.
There are checkpoints after boss encounters, so you can pick up your tower descent from a lower level if you like, but the score bonuses and unlocks seem to roll better if you start from the top. If that’s not enough, finishing the game gets you access to a brand new tower title Transdimensional Leakage. If that’s not enough, mod tools are included with the game, and there’s a place to load up custom maps complete with Steam Workshop support. Also included in the unlockables is also the game’s soundtrack.
Now I ask you, with all that, how much would you pay? I have to clarify about my controller support statement at the start of the article, in the “30 Second Review” portion. The game doesn’t have native controller support, but does make a suggestion for a workaround. There is a free program to download called Joy2Key that is simple to use and allows you to map the buttons to your gamepad (if you don’t already own such a program). The developers have mentioned that they are working to patch in native gamepad support, so while it was mentioned, it was not something for which I deducted points on the review.
If you are watching the forums and the Megadev Twitter account, you can tell that the game is being extremely well-supported post launch, and I can’t help but applaud those efforts to make an already fantastic game even better with continued support. The full version of the game will cost $6.99, but until March 4th you can snag it for a petty $4.89 on Steam. I sunk four hours in the day that I purchased it, and I cannot stop myself from going back playing again, challenging myself to do better and try and unlock more weapons and costumes.
Super House of Dead Ninjas is a time warp that manages to tap the best elements of retro games and infuse just enough modern elements to make it the perfect marriage of old and new. You’ll be surprised at how addicting and satisfying a simple game like this can be, but don’t take my word for it; pull down that face mask and sneak off into the tower now! Super House of Undead Ninjas gets a 10 out of 10.