Available as part of the cross-buy initiative on PlayStation 3 and PS Vita, Atomic Ninjas delivers fast-paced, ninja-themed, multiplayer platforming action where players get to punch, shoot, and throw objects at opponents and, hopefully, force them into a variety of horrible death traps.
Developed by Grip Games, Atomic Ninjas begins with a cute animated intro with a drunken ninja kicking off the apocalypse by accident in a nuclear plant, thus making our ninja troupe….atomic! Unfortunately, the game doesn’t go any further into the story than that, which is disappointing since each of the ninjas has a funny background story that could have been used in some quirky, animated interludes between matches. The lack of story also diminishes single player modes to nothing more than a practice area for gamers to hone their control skills and platforming moves against bots before moving on to the main game mode, multiplayer.
While the single player is shallow, it’s worth noting that Grip Games does advertise Atomic Ninjas as a multiplayer game and single player is only mentioned as an additional game mode. Though I’ve usually found enough people online to play with, bots are available to fill up slots if desired. Boasting a variety of traditional gaming modes, including Deathmatch, King of the Hill and Capture the Flag, there’s plenty to get stuck into and many of the modes also have team variations to allow gamers to partner up.
Atomic Ninja offers several different platforming venues for gamers to duke it out. The arenas have a nice variety of hovering platforms, rotating wheels, falling crates, as well as death traps such as ninja-zapping power walls, fiery pits, and pillars of toxic smoke. But the areas can feel a bit confined at times. I often felt that kills were too easily accomplished with a single punch or shot into a hazard; and though this is the overall point of the game, a bit more room to roam would have been nice.
The animation in Atomic Ninjas is wonderful. The ninjas are colorful and bright. The characters move fluidly and there are some nice effects when you’re swinging on a grappling rope or propelling upward on a rocket. The attacks are limited though. Punches, shurikens, and a force throw are all that are available. Nevertheless, the actions of punching and shooting do work well with the ninja jumping and general movement. It was particularly satisfying to save myself from a fiery death on more than one occasion with a simple grapple hook swing. Complementing the attacks and methods of movement are a variety of upgradeable "super abilities" such as camouflage (turning invisible when not moving), super punches, quicker respawns, bonus jumps, and others.
There are seven varieties of ninjas to choose from too, but other than their design and starting abilities there isn’t any noticeable differences between them. Only one ninja is available in the beginning, however, others are unlocked as experienced points are gained and trials, such as killing a number of opponents with a certain type of weapon, are completed.
Overall, Atomic Ninjas is a nice addition to the PSN lineup. The PS3 console experience isn’t ideal for a game as limited in scope as Atomic Ninjas, but as a portable gaming option on Vita it offers quick jump-in-and-play fun. The game’s artists did an excellent job creating some attractive ninja characters, but the lack of story flattens their presence to the point of being nothing more than avatars. The attacks and movements are limited but the ability to choose “super abilities” does help to expand them. Atomic Ninjas is certainly not a "must buy" but Grip Games has created a solid, fun multiplayer platforming experience that shouldn’t be ignored as an option for gaming on the go.